CSU’s Women’s Center invites the community to share letters of hope
CSU’s Mareyjoyce Green Women’s Center is spreading awareness ahead of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April through the Letters of Hope project that allows survivors of sexual assault to anonymously share their stories in a powerful way.
A large yellow mailbox is located outside of the Women’s Center in Berkman Hall, room 142, to collect physical letters. If survivors are feeling weary of dropping a letter off in person, there is also an online form where stories can be submitted.
“I think it is unfortunately very easy to be desensitized to violence and the dehumanization of others in our society today,” said Evie DuVernay, assistant director of the Mareyjoyce Green Women’s Center. “It is my hope that this project and these stories help all of us to connect to the humanity of others and the humanity within ourselves.”
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is a national campaign held each April to raise awareness about preventing sexual violence. SAAM is led by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), which provides information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence.
The theme of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2023 is “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity.” The campaign calls on all individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to change ourselves and the systems surrounding us to build racial equity and respect.
DuVernay began working at the Women’s Center in May 2022 and uses her position to promote gender equity and inclusion on campus. She played a pivotal role in creating the Letters of Hope project, with help from other staff at the center.
The desire to raise awareness and educate the campus community while also creating a safe space for survivors is what led to the idea for the Letters of Hope project. For this program, the center is partnering with Never Ever Give Up CLE, a local resource that is rooted in the power of anonymous storytelling.
Uncomfortable topics, such as the impacts of sexual violence, are often overlooked due to the stigma they bring. DuVernay emphasized that a safer space is necessary for sexual assault survivors to navigate their journey, rather than creating a triggering or exhausting environment that perpetuates the stigmas survivors may face.
“Given the alarming data around sexual assault on college campuses, we know that awareness building and deeper conversation is undisputedly necessary,” DuVernay said. “However, we also need to provide safer spaces for survivors to navigate, especially on a college campus where those engaged in the educational process need to be able to focus and actively participate in the learning process.”
Stories are being collected through March 31. Selected stories will be on display April 6 in CSU’s student center in a collection titled, “Our Stories, Our Voices.”
Along with the display, there will be a station for those who attend to write “letters of hope” in response to the stories shared by survivors. The purpose of these letters is to both bring support to survivors and give the campus community the chance to understand and learn more about sexual assault and its presence on college campuses.
“It is our hope that this will be a great opportunity for survivors to feel supported, heard and seen by the campus community,” DuVernay said. “As well as an opportunity for the campus community to listen, expand their understanding and support not only survivors, but the principles of bodily autonomy and consent moving forward.”
The center timed the event to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but emphasizes that CSU and Cleveland have many resources available to survivors year round.
“I cannot express what an amazing resource we have in the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center,” DuVernay said. “We also have an incredible counseling center here at CSU, which is available to students. The Women’s Center is also here to support those hoping to navigate their path toward healing through referrals and connections to other resources.”