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Be Assertive, Speak Up

Special to The Prospector
Participants of the Silhouette Project hold up their decorated silhouettes as part of the month-long project that will begin April 11 at the Mercado Mayapan with the “Fire & Ice Border Tour.”

In honor of national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, UTEP will host the month-long Silhouette Project at various locations on campus to increase awareness and education about the impacts of sexual violence through the use of workshops, art exhibitions and keynote speeches.

The month-long project will begin from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 11 at the Mercado Mayapan with the “Fire & Ice Border Tour,” and will conclude with “Take Back the Night” candlelight vigil from 7 to 9 p.m. April 29 at the Union Cinema. In its first year of existence, the Silhouette Project is set to be a jam-packed month, according to Arely Hernandez, coordinator for the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.

“April will be a busy month,” Hernandez said via email interview. “This month will be informative, engaging, interactive and hopefully will not only bring awareness to sexual violence but action… The message is that it can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race or age.”

One of the main themes that will be seen over the course of the month, besides awareness of sexual assault, is gender binary. By definition, gender binary is the concept and/or classification system consisting of two genders, male and female.

The topic will be tackled on April 29, during a “Take Back the Night” workshop. Keynote speaker Carlos Andrés Gómez, award-winning poet, actor and speaker, will conduct a workshop titled “Exploring Gender Gap: Beyond the Binary,” which will go in-depth into the two-gender classification system, the components of gender and how gender frames daily lives.

According to Hernandez, the annual “Take Back the Night” is a can’t miss event for students. Another event that Hernandez highlighted was the showing of “The Hunting Ground,” which is a documentary on sexual assault on college campuses. The documentary will air at 6 p.m. April 20, at the Union Cinema, which will be followed by a discussion forum. Getting the student population engaged and involved is one of the key components of making the month-long project a success and so far the support on the student end has been nothing short of amazing, according to Hernandez.

“The student involvement is amazing,” Hernandez said. “Many departments are involving their students in planning, conducting and executing such events. We are very pleased an increase in participation within our students and departments.”

Some of the student organizations involved in the project include Psi Chi, Alpha Phi Omega, Healthy Miners, Office of Student Life, Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution and the Student Engagement and Leadership Center.

Students involved with the project have been making silhouettes with slogans such as “Be Assertive,” “Speak Up” and “Take Action,” amongst others. The life-sized silhouettes will be displayed at various locations on campus during the month.

One student who is helping and looking forward to the project is Bianca Arciniega. The junior organizational and corporate communication major said the month-long event is an opportunity to gain a better understanding of sexual assault.

“I got involved because I think this a really big subject that students need to be aware of,” Arciniega said. “I want this project and all the projects throughout the month to be something that students want to take part in and want to learn more of what they can do on campus, and to be aware of this issue.”

Working with Hernandez as an undergraduate assistant at the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, Arciniega believes that the project could shed light on how broadly sexual assault affects people of any gender, race or sexuality.

“I think we live in this culture, where people think this is only a male-on-female issue, and that is not the case at all,” Arciniega said. “So I am hoping people look at these silhouettes and all the other events in a new perspective. And I hope that students on campus can be aware of this issue and help do one thing to prevent it.”

With all the exhibits, workshops and speeches lined up, the end goal is prevention and what Hernandez calls the “Do One Thing” initiative.

“The overall takeaway is prevention is possible,” Hernandez said. “We want the campus community to feel inspired, motived and empowered to know that they can do one thing to stop violence from happening on our campus and community.”

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Javier Cortez
Javier Cortez, Staff Reporter
Javier Cortez is a staff reporter for The Prospector. He is a senior multimedia journalism major, with a minor in English Rhetoric. Javier was born and raised in El Paso, TX and before coming to UTEP in the summer of 2012, he graduated from Irvin High School, where he was a four-year varsity tennis player, a member of student council and a class officer for his graduating class. He has also worked for the El Paso Diablos as a sports information intern on their media relations team. In his spare time, Javier loves to write columns for the perspectives section in the school newspaper—whether it is sports, pop culture, religion, and society he loves to write about it. To go along with writing, Javier loves reading anything about sports, religion, and non-fiction.
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