Flag event raises awareness for sexual assault: Protect Life flag display postponed


Madalyn Buursma

The flags displayed on the commons lawn.

The annual sexual awareness flag event, sponsored by Students Against Sexual Violence (SASV), the Sexuality Series, Campus Ministries, and Residence Life. A second flag display, a Cemetery of the Innocents flag display put on by Protect Life at Calvin College has been cancelled and will be rescheduled for a later day.

Originally they had both been scheduled for Thursday, April 18. Once they realized that, Protect Life rescheduled their display for Tuesday, April 22.

“We really respect the SASV,” junior Margaret Hendricks, vice president of the club said, explaining that she was a part of SAPT as a first-year student. After the sexual assault awareness flag event was also rescheduled to this week due to weather, Protect Life cancelled their event, and will reschedule it for a later date.

“Because of our respect for SASV, we’re pushing it off. We want them to be able to do their thing, without it seeming like we’re stepping on their toes,” she said.

It is the first flag event for the Cemetery of the Innocents, and the sixth year for the sexual assault awareness flag event, which was first started under the Sexual Assault Prevention Team (SAPT), which changed their name to SASV this year.

As part of a dorm worship last week, students were invited to decorate the white flags for the SASV flag event with encouraging messages and drawings. On Wednesday, April 24, volunteers planted 570 flags, to represent how many people on Calvin’s campus have likely been affected by sexual violence.

The number was reached using national statistics and campus population when the flag displays were first started in 2013. On Thursday, April 25, students were invited to a community prayer, and to visit the flag display.

Juniors Jamie Atkinson and Taylor Hartman, student leaders for SASV, hope the display illustrated how many people have experienced sexual violence.

“I hope it gives perspective,” Atkinson told Chimes in an interview in anticipation for the event. “A lot of people have this ‘it doesn’t happen on a Christian campus’ mindset.” They also hope it will offer encouragement and support to survivors of sexual violence.

“Being able to see the messages of support,” Hartman said, to read that “you are loved, you are enough, and you are valuable, and know that they are … [I hope that] message gets through to them.”

The two groups were not very worried the other group’s flag display would distract from their message.

“I would hope that they are different enough that interested parties would still be attending [the events],” Hartman said.

“People that are passionate about it will be there whether or not there’s something drawing attention away,” added Atkinson.

Similar to the SASV flag event’s intention to visualize a statistic, Protect Life at Calvin College’s flag display will feature 1,000 flags, each representing 926 abortions that happen in America each year, according to a 2014 statistic. Student organizations at other colleges have done similar displays, including a display at Cornerstone: they are borrowing the flags from a student there.

The flag display were going to be accompanied by a campus chalking, which the student organization does every spring. They will write messages like “A person is a person no matter how small” or “pro-life, pro-woman.” The chalking went as originally scheduled, and happened on April 24.

“Peaceful little things,” Hendricks said. She said she hopes the display will be a peaceful way to start conversations, and to raise awareness for some of the resources the club offers.

The club offers resources both for students experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, such as child care, as well as support for students who have undergone an abortion.

“It is a hard decision,” Hendricks said. “It’s not like people are out there like ‘oh, we want to have abortions’ right? No one actually is like, ‘I want to get pregnant to get an abortion.’ We understand that it’s hard, and we want to be there for people who may have experienced that as well.”

Hendricks said she was “nervous” about having a flag display close to the SASV flag event.

“I think if people are upset about it, it’s still a conversation that’s happening,” Hendricks said. “Even if we get one girl that approaches us and is like, ‘Hey I’m experiencing this, how can you help me,’ I think that’ll be a win for me.”