New Public Health Club Takes Action to Help Sexual Assault Victims

The Public Health Club at the University of Rhode Island recently undertook a project to spread educational awareness regarding sexual assault and raise money to cover the cost of counseling for victims on campus.

To receive counseling treatment after a sexual assault, individuals are required to pay a five dollar fee, a price that may seem cheap for some, but expensive for others.

“If something horrible happens, such as a sexual assault, there should not be any barriers to seeking help,” said Owen Manahan, founder and president of the Public Health club.

Because April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, the organization wanted to take action. They decided to implement their “Stick With Survivors” campaign in order to help the victims in the surrounding community know they are not alone. The campaign was a two part project.

One major aspect of the campaign was to raise money to help cover the counseling fee for survivors. The club set up booths around the Memorial Union in order to encourage donations. After a few days, the club raised close to $300.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, approximately 20 to 25 percent of college women and 15 percent of college men are victims of forced sex during their time in college. However, more than 90 percent of these victims on college campuses do not report the assault, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Another important aspect of the project dealt entirely with educational awareness. The club made a poster to visually show the magnitude of sexual assault.

“People could come by and place a sticky note on the board if they knew someone who was sexually assaulted, or they themselves were,” said Manahan. “Of course they did not have to tell us if they were or not.”

Participants could either write something on the sticky note or leave it blank.

“Our hope is that the more awareness that is called to public health issues like mental health care and sexual assault, the greater the overall change in our community may be,” said one club member Rachel Douglass.

Although health studies has been a major at URI for a while, the Public Health Club only came into existence last semester. Instead of having the club be a discussion-based organization, Manahan wanted to create something that focused on action.

The club follows a four step structure: plan, prepare, execute and terminate.

The first step, plan, is when the group gets together to discuss the current public health issues on campus. Then, they prepare by choosing an issue and implement the process of reaching out and acquiring various resources. The execute stage is when the actual project is carried out. Finally, the fourth step, terminate, occurs when the group finishes the project and writes a report on how it went.

Public Health club has brought a group of around 10 to 20 individuals together for a common purpose.

“The club provides me with opportunities to take action towards solving issues that interest me while connecting with other members who share those same interests,” said Douglass. “I’ve always been passionate about helping others and giving back to my community.”

The Public Health Club has not yet decided what they are going to do for their next project. Some ideas include reducing food waste and other sexual health awareness campaigns.