Pitt-Greensburg will host several events in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The events are designed to educate people about the issue, show a pathway to recovery for victims, and offer information on how to get help for one’s self or for others.
It is part of an ongoing educational effort on campus to create a culture of awareness that helps the community to understand the concept of consent as well as how to obtain help—when needed. The theme of this year’s SAAM is “I Ask,” which focuses on consent.
Inspirational speaker Brian Cardoza, who is also a sexual assault survivor, will speak on campus Wednesday, April 10. The public is invited to attend his presentation at 7 p.m. in the Academic Village (room 118). His presentation will be followed by a student-organized performance of “The Monologues” at 9 p.m.
An inspirational speaker, author, artist, and founder of The Broken Knee Club and Survivor Knights, Brian Cardoza encourages other survivors, saying, "Your darkest moments may be the light for another." He shares his journey of being sexually and physically abused from the time he was six until he left home at 15, a journey that took him through jail to the present day where he delivers messages of responsibility and hope as he diligently works to raise awareness and money to fight against childhood sexual assault and physical abuse.
His motto, "Don't let this moment dictate the next moment."
Cardoza’s story and creative works are featured in a number of national and international projects, including a documentary for the EU, Forced, Promise Place's documentary Ripple Effects, The BristleCone Project, and Huffington Post's HuffPost Live segment for Child Abuse Awareness Month. He also is a certified OVC TTAC Consultant and RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) Speaker.
He founded The Broken Knee Club, a non-profit organization created to provide a safe haven for all sexes to comfortably speak out about their experience of childhood and adult sexual assault. In collaboration with others, he is building Survivor Knights, a community working to heal the wounds and trauma of abuse, addiction, and other life-threatening health conditions through creative expression.
For more than a decade, Pitt-Greensburg performed “The Vagina Monologues.” The show, now called “The Monologues” to be more inclusive of all genders and sexualities, will be performed after Cardoza’s presentation.
“The Monologues” is a student-organized event that is expected to include 15 monologues, all written by present and past students, and performed by students. Approximately 10 students are involved in the event. While there is no admission charge, chocolate will be available for sale to raise money for the Blackburn Center.
“‘The Monologues’ are honest [portrayals] regarding gender and sexuality on our campus,” said Chelle Jackson, a senior Creative and Professional Writing major who is directing the event. “They matter because they allow students to be heard. Sometimes all people need is to know they aren't the only ones going through what they're going through.”
Jackson continued, “The Blackburn Center is incredibly important to this community. It is a great resource for anyone who has been sexually assaulted or harassed. The number of people who have dealt with sexual harassment and assault is bigger than we generally think of it. The Blackburn Center helps turn victims into survivors, as well as helping to prevent sexual crimes.”
Several smaller educational activities are planned for the campus community. The Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities will culminate with the Pitt-Greensburg campus team participating in the Blackburn Center’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on Saturday, April 13.
“In recent years, our partnership with Blackburn has expanded to include a research partnership and a commitment to primary prevention,” said Sheila Confer, director of the Academic Village at Pitt-Greensburg and a member of the Blackburn Center board of directors. “We continue to develop and evaluate what we can do to recognize and address the root causes of gender-based violence. We believe that the culture that accepts and supports this kind of violence can change through education, and we do this social transformation work both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Pitt-Greensburg offers a range of programming that provides exposure to different experiences and perspectives while still being fact based and supported by research in the field. It focuses on showing people how to get help for themselves and others, as well as how to recognize help is needed.
The two organizations, Pitt-Greensburg and the Blackburn Center, have been partnering on programs for 35 years. Those programs include sexual assault education and prevention programs for students, staff, and faculty; training for resident assistants and residence life staff; training for campus police officers on trauma-informed practices; presentations to first-year seminar classes and residence life programs; and programs on healthy relationships.
They also co-sponsor national speakers on gender violence prevention and education programs, as well as co-sponsoring a male student support group and gender education group.
Representatives of the Blackburn Center serve as advocates for students involved in campus judicial board meetings, offer on- and off-site support for students in abusive relationship and those who have been victims of sexual assault, consult on educational programs, and offer a 24-hour hotline that students, staff, and faculty have utilized.