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Former Arizona lawmaker and sexual assault survivor joins discussion about survivor support

Celeste Plumlee, a sexual assault survivor and former State Representative, talked about the normalizing sexual assault conversations through policy

Associate Vice President and Director of ASU Health and Counseling Services Dr. Aaron Krasnow speaks to students at Morning After: How to Provide Support to Sexual Assault Survivors on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Associate Vice President and Director of ASU Health and Counseling Services Dr. Aaron Krasnow speaks to students at Morning After: How to Provide Support to Sexual Assault Survivors on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Former Arizona State Rep. Celeste Plumlee was one of several guest speakers at "Morning After: How to Provide Support to Sexual Assault Survivors," a question and answer session hosted on the Tempe campus by Organizing for Action.

The event, held in the Alumni Room In the Memorial Union Wednesday night, was a moderated discussion on topics ranging from support for sexual assault survivors to rape culture.

In front of a small group of students.

Plumlee was joined on the panel by Aaron Krasnow, the associate vice president and director of ASU Health and Counseling Services. Also on the panel were two sexual assault survivors.

The discussion was moderated by Alexa Rodriguez, a political science freshman and Spring Fellow with OFA. She said the discussion was meant to put the focus on the aftermath of sexual assault. She said that many times, the focus of trainings and events deal with the “beforehand," and not with how to help survivors after the fact.

“I think it’s a really difficult discussion to have,” Rodriguez said. “It’s really hard to know, ‘How do I ask questions?' or ‘Do I ask questions, and how do I give them the support?’”

Rodriguez highlighted the importance of having allies and friends. 

Plumlee, a sexual assault survivor herself, spoke after the discussion on the importance of policy-making in combating sexual assault and harassment.

“I think awareness campaigns can be beneficial," Plumlee said, "and I think seeing stuff like that on a big scale is beneficial.”

The scale that Plumlee is referring to are recent movements to raise sexual assault awareness at the state and local levels of government. She said things like the capitol being painted purple in October, for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is a good example of  government showing they're invested in support. 

However, she also said more work can be done to spread the word outside of support groups that already know the significance of purple in October, or of teal in April — Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“There’s just kind of this acknowledgement that there is this thing and we care about it. But I also think it’s sort of thin,” she said. 

She said people might see the capitol painted purple and just wonder why it’s painted purple without realizing the tie to domestic violence.

“The more that (sexual assault awareness) is sort of normalized, that this is a real thing that happens and it’s something we care about as a city, as a state, the county, whoever is the governing body … I think can go a long way to help people who have experienced that,” Plumlee said.

She said that the step now is spreading that awareness so people make the connection.

Read more: Two ASU police representatives awarded for department efforts against sexual assault

Krasnow also spoke after the discussion, praising the progress the University has made in offering both support and tools for new students and sexual assault survivors.

“I believe the University has taken a number of fantastic steps in the direction of education, raising awareness and doing trainings,” Krasnow said. “The fact that all freshman now watch the Community of Care video and take the Community of Care training before they enter the University which includes a whole section on consent and respect I think is a fantastic evolution of the University in the last couple years.”

Krasnow said that one of the good things the University does to show their support for both survivors and students is demonstrated by how the ASU Charter emphasizes the importance of community. He said that ASU President Michael Crow has “put his money where his mouth is” in terms of sexual assault support and awareness.

“What we can still do is we can still work hard to make sure we don’t take our foot off the accelerator,” Krasnow said.

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