Winona State joins The Red Tape Project
Sara Tiradossi / Winonan
A new initiative at Winona State University will bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault, specifically those occurring on college campuses, legal studies senior Joelle Beyer said.
The new initiative is called The Red Tape Project.
According to the goal of the project, it aims to end the stigma around sexual assault and create a safe space for survivors to share their stories anonymously and not have to risk being judged or questioned.
Beyer said the project was founded at the University of Denver in Colorado and expanded to the University of Colorado Boulder. Winona State University is the third campus to join the initiative.
Through the project, survivors of sexual assault can mark with a “X” on an interactive map where an assault occurred or whether they want to share their story, she said. The map also displays hearts, which are associated with resources survivors can use to seek counseling or help in Winona and on campus.
In order to bring the project to Winona State, Beyer reached out to the Red Tape Project at the beginning of the semester and asked if she could be an ambassador for the university. She relayed information about dorms and buildings, gathered all the research about the local resources and oversaw the launch of the project on Sunday, April 2.
“It was a lot of collaborative work with them,” Beyer said. “It was very empowering to work with students who are interested in activism.”
The point of the new project, Beyer said, is to show how this issue can be close to home. Sometimes people do not talk about sexual assault, so it is important to illuminate the stories of survivors and try to make people realize the issue is happening, she added.
When the project started, universities in Colorado wanted to make an impact on their campuses first, but now that they are seeing how the project is spreading to other campuses, the organizers hope more universities will adopt it, Beyer said.
“This shows they really believed in the message,” she said. “I’m glad that Winona is going to be part of such an amazing campaign.”
As she moves forward in spreading awareness, Beyer will also be collaborating with the RE Initiative.
Michael Krug, RE Initiative graduate assistant and student at Winona State, said the project is a good way to visually show people where the assaults have happened on campus and generate more conversation around the topic.
According to Krug, the conversation can start just by exposing the project to a friend and mentioning how it is happening in Winona.
“It will seem more real that way,” he said.
Krug said it is crazy to see how many have already marked on the map since the day it started. Most of them are marked on main campus, west campus and downtown Winona.
West campus is usually not included in the crime reports from the university sent out in October, so this will help show that assaults happen there as well, Krug said.
Krug said the project helps show how often the assaults are happening, because sexual assaults go underreported most of the time. He added the three reasons why they go underreported is because universities do a poor job handling sexual assault cases, fear of retaliation from the perpetrators and victims have to relieve the incident when they report it.
“This is a way for victims and survivors to be heard without having to formally report,” Krug said. “They can share what they are comfortable sharing.”
Sophomore marketing student Caleb Gernes said he believes this is a great project, but he hopes the university will add something to what everyone can do to prevent sexual assaults.
“They show how close to home this can be but now it’s what can we do to prevent it,” Gernes said.
Senior English student Arnes Marchesi had learned about the initiative from a friend who shared a post about it on Facebook.
“This initiative will really help make a difference in our small community,” Marchesi said.
Now that the site is launched, Beyer said she will continue to work with “Take Back the Night,” an event that helps to raise awareness on sexual assault in the community, try to get the word out about the project, and encourage survivors to share their stories if they are willing to do so. This year’s event will be Tuesday, April 18.
Beyer said, “We will continue to grow with more active events on campus to work toward combating sexual assaults.”
By Sara Tiradossi