University of Georgia students helped to raise awareness of sexual assault on campus by hosting events throughout April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Foley Akanmu, known around campus for silently walking from class to class holding handmade signs raising awareness of sexual assault statistics, is playing a part in providing educational resources to students on campus about these issues.
Akanmu wanted to find a way to better educate UGA students regarding the resources provided to sexual assault and harassment victims in the Athens community.
"I came up with the project called Save Our Queens to promote awareness about sexual assault, sexual violence and dating violence on our campus specifically," Akanmu said.
Through Save Our Queens, Akanmu partnered with other organizations to host a week of events that included sign making, a panel, an open mic night, a solidarity day and a peace walk to observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
To start the week off, there was a panel that discussed how to make downtown Athens safer.
The panel featured Janis Yoon from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Farrah Johnson from Safe Sex Fairies, Nathan Wasserman from Collaborative Academic and Retention Effort, and Ursula McPherson-Vitkus from URGE: United for Reproductive and Gender Equity.
“Helping people understand boundaries and consent is very important to us,” said Johnson, who said one of her ultimate goals as a Safe Sex Fairy is to “make consent sexy again.”
Opening up forums for communication about sexual assault led to the URGE open mic night for poetry, music and comedy at Hendershots Coffee on Prince Avenue.
"If you see something that is wrong, there is no problem with standing out about it.”
-Foley Akanmu, organizer of Save Our Queens
"It was called URGE’d and Unheard, insinuating that anyone who has not spoken about their past experiences, or those who have and want to share again, are welcome to be heard on stage," said Stephanie Flores, a member of URGE.
Claire Warren, another member of URGE who was instrumental in the planning of the mic night, said that there were 12 people who performed and approximately 40 people in attendance.
"If you are raising awareness about an issue, you are taking those first steps to leading others to identifying it as a problem," Flores said. "People will cringe. People don't want to hear about it. People don't want to know that sexual assault is happening because it is easier not to. Having these organized events removes some of that desensitization."
Flores believes sexual assault is not being recognized as a problem by the university or the students.
According to UGA crime statistics, in 2017, there were 16 campus rapes reported to University of Georgia police. In 2016, there were 17 campus rapes reported and in 2015, there were 13 reported.
"Raising awareness that [sexual assault] exists is one of the first steps toward bringing people into the movement, because they cannot be involved in the movement unless they are informed about it,” Flores said.
To close out the sexual assault week, Akanmu hosted a Peace Walk held on south campus. Akanmu estimates there were 10 to 15 people in attendance, but he wished that there would have been more momentum.
"I think that more partnerships could have been better because the groups that we had were amazing, and we had an event almost everyday,” Flores said.
Many of the organizers are graduating, but they hope that these events continue so that more people are better informed about sexual assault.
"If you see something that is wrong, there is no problem with standing out about it,” Akanmu said.