Aurora Center plans events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

OCORRECTION: “Aurora Center plans events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” misidentified several sources. Kelly Coughlan is the Aurora Center’s executive assitant, and the Aurora Center volunteer interviewed is Liz Borer.

One week after graduating from the University last spring, 22-year-old Carol Crouthamel said, she went to a downtown bar for one last drink with her friends before summer break.

Crouthamel was preparing to leave the bar when a man she was casually speaking with offered to buy her a drink. She didn’t think twice.

“The drink tasted good, like fruit punch,” Crouthamel said. “But that’s one of the last things I remember.”

When she woke the next morning, she had no idea where she was or how she had gotten there. Her clothes lay in a tangled mess on the floor, and she felt dizzy and nauseated.

Crouthamel believes she was drugged and assaulted, but she did not report the incident to police or seek professional counseling.

“When I got home, I stood in a hot shower, let myself cry and rinsed away the night,” she said.

Crouthamel’s story is similar to others’ stories that survivors will share during April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education,

a crisis center at the University, is coordinating events on campus.

“This national event was started to bring about awareness of sexual assault,” said Kelly Coughlan, an executive director at the Aurora Center. “It happens to a lot of women, and it’s certainly never their fault.”

According to the American Association of University Women, 65 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police, and nearly one in four women will be sexually assaulted during their college years.

This year’s events on campus, which consist of a variety of guest speakers and art activities, began with the Clothesline Project. On April 7, survivors of violent assaults created and designed T-shirts to be displayed at the Coffman Union plaza at the end of the month.

“It’s an artistic expression and a way for survivors and concerned people to express how they feel about violence against women,” said Liz Borei, a University student and Aurora Center volunteer.

Borei said these events force people to address an issue that’s not easy to talk about.

“It’s important as a community that we tackle this issue,” Borei said. “It won’t end if we ignore it.”

On Wednesday and April 21, University students can participate in an art project called Pledge Against Violence. Students will dip their hands in paint and leave their prints on a large canvas as a pledge against violence.

Finished canvases will be displayed in buildings around campus.

Coughlan said increasing awareness through these events might prevent sexual assault or prompt people who have been sexually assaulted to seek advice from the Aurora Center.

So far, she said, it seems to be working.

“This year, our number of clients is the highest ever,” Coughlan said.

Located at Boynton Health Service, the Aurora Center is a crisis center on campus for survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking. It operates a 24-hour crisis line, conducts support groups and works closely with the University Police Department and medical services.

Crouthamel said she hopes Sexual Assault Awareness month and its events on campus will make people more cautious and remember her story next time they are out at a bar.

“If I knew what I know now, I would have gone up to the bar and gotten the drink (myself),” she said.

Freelance editor Lou Raguse welcomes feedback at [email protected]