In February of each year, the Wake Forest chapter of PREPARE hosts “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Week” in order to raise awareness about sexual assault and stand in solidarity with those who have experienced sexual assault both on and off campus.
The week is full of different events geared towards raising awareness and allowing survivors to speak out about their experiences.
“PREPARE is a student organization that has been a part of Wake Forest since the late 1980s when a male student organized peers to raise awareness about issues of sexualized violence,” said Beth Montplaisir, the head of the Safe Office of Student Health Services. “This year marked the 24th annual Speak-Out event, a signature tradition of our campus, which hopes to honor survivors in our community.
Throughout the week, representatives from PREPARE sold t-shirts outside of the Pit each day to raise money for the group.
At these booths, students also handed out yellow ribbons for students to wear on their clothes in support of the victims.
“T-shirts were sold to benefit our local rape crisis center and domestic violence shelter, Family Services,” Montplaisir said. “They featured messages of ‘I believe you.’”
On Tuesday, Shorty’s hosted a trivia night where the questions were focused specifically on facts and information about sexual harassment and assault, in order to inform Wake Forest students.
On Wednesday, instead of hosting a typical “Open Mic” night, Shorty’s held a “Sing-Out,” where students could share their stories or views through song.
Thursday marked one of the most impactful events of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Week” — the “Speak-Out” in Wait Chapel. The emphasis is placed on building a safe community where people feel able to share about their experiences in solidarity.
“Through the reading of anonymously submitted testimonials, our campus stands in solidarity with survivors and breaks the stigma of silence around these issues and experiences,” Montplaisir said. “Survivor voices are heard and honored for their strength.”
After the anonymous testimonials, faculty, staff and students joined together in lighting candles in recognition of the strength and healing of survivors within our community.
The week aimed to raise awareness of these issues within our community and although it still conveyed the traditional message that sexual violence is not welcome at Wake Forest, this year the signs featured new messages.
“Over the past few years, PREPARE students have focused messaging on supporting survivors within the Wake Forest community,” Montplaisir said. “This year, the organization introduced new signs placed on the main quad featuring messages of support such as, ‘We are listening,’ ‘We stand with survivors,’ ‘You are not alone’ and ‘We believe you.’ Marketing for the week included messages of where to find support and intentional ‘yellow-free’ spaces on campus.”
Every year, many students welcome the event as a way to learn and extend their support for victims.
“That week was one of — if not the most — influential week here at Wake Forest,” said sophomore Cameron Debro who is involved with PREPARE. “I got to learn so many facts about how often sexual assault happens on a college campus and just how many people on this campus are willing to take a stance to help both prevent this tragedy from happening anymore — as well as those who have been affected by sexual assault.”
Freshman Jeannie Smith echoed Debro’s support for the event.
“It was really productive,” Smith said. “We reached a bigger crowd than we thought we would. I think the Speak Out was the most effective event. It really set in during that event that sexual assault can happen to anyone.”