BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To spread awareness and education throughout the community, Jana’s Campaign is sponsoring multiple events during the month.
Jana’s Campaign was founded in honor of the late Jana Mackey, who died on July 3rd, 2008 at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. The organization works to reduce and prevent gender and relationship violence. Their educational programs cover domestic and dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking.
According to Executive Director Kaiti Blackburn, Jana’s Campaign has programs geared toward middle and high school students, college students, and community members.
“We’ve actually even started working with elementary schools,” Blackburn said. “Of course that conversation looks a little bit different than what it looks like middle school and high school students, but [it’s mainly] the importance of character development and being a good friend.”
For middle school and high school students, the focus is on identifying the red flags in unhealthy relationships, as well as the local resources available. On college campuses, Jana’s Campaign not only works with students, but also with administrators and personnel.
“We also host four regional campus safety summits, with the purpose of providing college administrators and personnel with training to better prevent and respond to gender and relationship violence on campus,” Blackburn said.
The community education aspect of Jana’s Campaign is much of what will be going on throughout the month of April. Three events that Blackburn highlighted are the ‘What Were You Wearing’ Survivor Art Installation, domestic and sexual violence and faith communities training, and the Spring Art Walk Exhibit.
‘What Were You Wearing’ is sponsored by Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, in coordination with Jana’s Campaign, the Wonder Woman League, and FHSU. The exhibit features outfits that were worn by sexual assault survivors.
“It’s to debunk the myth that what you are wearing has anything to do with sexual assault,” said Blackburn.
The exhibit opened last Friday and will be on display until 5:00 tonight, in the Center for Applied Technology on the FHSU Campus. There will also be a table in the Memorial Union on Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. where students can add their handprint to a poster in an act of standing up against sexual assault.
The training for domestic and sexual violence and faith communities is taking place on April 20th. For the event, Jana’s Campaign is partnering with a Lawrence organization called #BeMoreLikeClaire. National expert Julie Owens will run the event.
“A lot of times when people experience violence in their relationship, they may go to a faith leader or somebody within their church,” Blackburn explained. “It’s really important for faith leaders and congregants to be educated on the issues of domestic and sexual violence so they can be supportive, and then also lead [the survivors] to the other resources in the community that are available.”
This free training will take place at the First Presbyterian Church from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and is funded by the Heartland Community Foundation.
The third event Blackburn highlighted, the Spring Art Walk Exhibit, will take place on April 30th, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Styles Dance Center. The exhibit will feature a variety of artworks ranging from drawings to poems to media forms, including the poster made by the FHSU students’ handprints.
“We’re still collecting those items,” Blackburn said. “We’ll collect those until the 20th. Anything that deals with healthy or unhealthy relationships, we’d love to feature at our art walk.”
The importance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is evident, but in Blackburn’s own words, it’s about learning how to assist the people in our lives who have been affected by assault.
“It’s important because what we know from statistics is that there is someone in our life who has been affected by either sexual or domestic violence, even if they don’t share that information,” she said. “It’s really important for us to be aware of these issues, but also to be educated on how to assist somebody, because there will be a time when they need help and they will feel comfortable sharing their story.
“The whole purpose of Jana’s Campaign is to provide education,” Blackburn added. “So we can also prevent these instances from happening. If we are educated, we can recognize what these behaviors look like and then call them out whenever we do see them. That will then continually help work to prevent them from starting in the first place.”
For more information on the events happening in Hays this month and in the future, visit Jana’s Campaign on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Contact information to get in touch with the organization can be found on their website.