Speak up and speak out: Sexual Assault Awareness Month


Photos by Brooke F. Bromberg

The LiveWell office and Department of Public Safety (DPS) host events this April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

SAAM spreads awareness about sexual violence, interpersonal violence and abuse. Throughout the month of April, non-profits, crisis centers, and law enforcement agencies share information about prevention and support for those affected by sexual violence.

On Thursday, April 13, the LiveWell Office held “A Survivor’s Story” event, with a guest speaker and panel of professionals and authority figures. Three of the six panelists included Coastal Carolina University staff members and a student. Among them were Counseling Services Case Manager Brooke Page, Title IX coordinator Antoinette Bellamy and student Nahdea Wiley, Miss Black South Carolina. The panel also included Rape Crisis Center advocate Sharon Beaty, forensic nurse examiner Natalie Leonard, and a Horry County Special Victims Unit Detective.

Three of the six panelists included Coastal Carolina University staff members and a student.

The discussion was led by Arthenius Jackson Colvin, a sexual assault survivor and executive director of One Touch Transformation.

When Colvin shared her story, she said she was molested by her uncle when she was only 6 years old. She said she did not understand what had happened to her at the time, and she stayed silent for almost 20 years. She opened up to her family about it around 2013 and decided to begin her healing journey through therapy, prayer and worship.

During her healing journey, she said she decided she wanted to do more and provide for other people that are going through a similar experience. After volunteering at her local rape crisis center, she decided to start a nonprofit organization called One Touch Transformation to help educate the community about sexual abuse.

Colvin founded One Touch Transformation in January 2014, where she uses her own personal experience as well as resources, to empower and help victims cope with their trauma and past experiences. The organization gets its name from the metaphor of transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly with just one touch, which Colvin said she was finally able to do through her healing experience.

“My mission is to go and touch as many lives as I can, and transform theirs too,” she said. “One of the things I push for, for survivors and victims, is true freedom. Experience it, regain your power, regain your voice so that you can be free.” The panel discussed how to further educate children and spread the word about prevention. Colvin and Bellamy said it is important to start having conversations with children from a young age and include what consent is and how to handle it. Colvin said this is a conversation that should be had multiple times, establishing boundaries and identifying strange or abnormal behaviors.

“I think the more that we educate our students about what sexual assault looks like and about how they need to handle that process, I think it makes our campus a safer space,” Bellamy said.

Major Robert Pellerin of operations at DPS said sexual assault cases are one of the hardest things to help people through, since they are very sensitive in nature. He said his team at DPS are trained in a trauma-informed approach and are very sensitive to the fact that victims have been traumatized.

Pellerin said they proceed with investigations very carefully and thoroughly by speaking to all victims, witnesses and suspects in the case to get to the bottom of it.

“It is so important for us to be able to provide the victim closure in these situations. If we are able to prosecute, we want to do that. The most important thing for us is getting to the truth and prosecuting if we have enough evidence to proceed,” Pellerin said.

In light of SAAM, CCU DPS is joining Myrtle Beach, Horry County and Conway Police in hosting a lunch and learn event highlighting sexual assault awareness and prevention. The lunch and learn event will be held April 26, in Atheneum Hall Alford Ballroom from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Pellerin said DPS is also working on a Rape Aggression Defense class, free for students to teach selfdefense techniques.

Miss Black South Carolina and CCU student Nadeah Wiley said she thinks more empathy is necessary for students to feel more comfortable reporting instances of sexual assault and getting help. She said she believes most victims, which she calls “victors,” are hesitant to speak up because they think they won’t be taken seriously.

“I think that’s one of the biggest things we have to do as individuals, is picture ourselves in their shoes, because you never know,” Wiley said. “It could be your daughter, your niece, your nephew, and I believe that we need to be more empathetic and supportive of those going through that.”

For more information on sexual assault services and resources, visit www.coastal.edu/sai/studentresources/ sexualmisconductsupport/

Confidential resources: Counseling services 843-349-2305, and Student Health Services 843-349-6543.

Non-confidential resources: the Dean of Students Office 843-349-4161, DPS (emergency number) 843-349- 2911, and Title IX Coordinator 843- 349-2382.