November 6, 2001

RSVP sponsors Sexual Assault Awareness Week on and off campus to prevent sexual violence

The University's Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) has organized activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Week from November 2 through November 9. "Our hope is to welcome anybody and everybody," said Dr. Rahul Sharma, director of RSVP, about the series of speakers and interactive workshops scheduled for this week.

RSVP, a subdivision of the office of the dean of students in the University, focuses on prevention and awareness of sexual violence. "We come from the belief that we all are affected by the issues of sexual violence, if not directly then indirectly," Sharma said. "It's important to figure out what we can do about it."

On November 2, Janine Stone, a victim of sexual assault, spoke at a brown bag discussion surrounding "rape culture" and the media's portrayal of sexual violence. "The speaker talked about really trying to look at how it's hard to be 'neutral' or 'detached' from the issue of sexual violence," Sharma said. "It steered away from the intellectual, academic-only context of talking about this issue. We wanted to bring in real experiences of women and men who have been sexually assaulted."

Today at 6:00 p.m. in Harper 102, RSVP will sponsor an interactive workshop facilitated by trained peer educators on acquaintance rape and communication. RSVP's goal in "Let's Talk About It: Students' Dialogue on Preventing Date Rape" is to listen to different perspectives on issues and have students feel comfortable in a student-led discussion. Food will be provided. "I hope that [after this event] people are able to understand more about the elements of date rape [and] about ways to prevent rape," Sharma said.

Tahmenna Faryal of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) will discuss basic human rights and the plight of Afghan women on Thursday, November 8 in Harper 103 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. The goals of RAWA are multilateral disarmament and the establishment of a secular democracy, with an opportunity for women to participate in public life once again.

"We wanted to not necessarily focus on Afghanistan, but given our attention to what's happening in different parts of the world, we wanted to focus on women of the third world," Sharma said.

Also on November 8, a self-defense class will be held in Henry Crown Field House at 5:00 by the city-based organization Impact. The cost is five dollars for students and $10 for non-students. RSVP aims to hold classes with Impact about once a quarter. "We've had such a positive response from people who attend their classes," Sharma said.

The week will end with an off-campus event at the Hothouse at Balbo and Wacker in the South Loop. Tahmenna Faryal will speak again at "The Other America Meets the Other Afghanistan," this time about the choices that Americans must make about the future in light of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The three dollar cover charge will partially benefit RAWA.

In addition to its goal of prevention of sexual violence, RSVP is interested in spreading knowledge about the causes and issues of sexual assault. "I'm always glad to see increasing amounts of men coming out to these events," Sharma said.

"One of our goals is to really steer way from the notion that sexual violence is a women's issue. Primarily it's a man's issue because 97 percent of the time it's men who are doing the perpetrating."

RSVP is planning Rape Prevention Month for April, featuring a live expression night of music and spoken word. "We're trying to get away from 'we're going to be talking at you about these issues and it's going to be really dry and patronizing and condescending,'" Sharma said.

"The event is really about all of us putting in our two cents about this issue."

Soon after Martin Luther King Day, in late January or early February, RSVP will host its annual Speak-out, where survivors of sexual assault recount their stories and how they've healed.

For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Week, visit or call 702-7200.