April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a campaign aimed at raising awareness of sexual assault and violence, as well as educating the public on how to better address and prevent sexual assault. On any college campus, such as New College, this month will hit particularly close to home, and the rundown of events being hosted are aiming to address these problems.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and more than 90 percent of victims do not report their assault. Sexual assault has historically been an issue poorly addressed by college campuses – recent scandals in the past year involving a football player at Florida State University and a Duke University basketball player have brought awareness to the lack of care applied to sexual assault cases. The “Carry That Weight” performance by Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, in which she lugged around her mattress everywhere she went, received national attention for her pushback against an administration unwilling to take action against sexual assault.
New College’s history with SAAM extends back several years. It was organized by New College alum Paula Pulmano as a fairly small event until 2013, when thesis student and former NCSA President Cassandra Corrado began organizing it. Since 2013, SAAM at New College has grown larger in terms of events, community outreach and student participation. It now works with several groups on campus such as Voices for Planned Parenthood and Sexual Health and Relationship Education Center.
The events in the coming month have been planned to address issues that New College survivors face. A Speak-Out Zine was released on April 7, and the Clothesline Project – an art project for survivors to express their thoughts on a t-shirt – will be displayed from April 19 to April 25. Several workshops will be held addressing issues such as how to support survivors, how to intervene in potentially dangerous situations, an understanding of consent in sex work, a consent discussion, and sexual violence in the queer community. Movie screenings will also be held, as well as several sessions for Project Unbreakable, a photo-shoot for survivors to write about their experiences.
Of the events being held in the coming month, Take Back the Night has the longest history. Take Back the Night, an international event, was started in the 1970s in the United States. Originally created to protest the violence women face and the fear of going out at night this violence creates, Take Back the Night is a call to end sexual assault in all forms and against all genders. It is typically presented as a rally, candlelit vigil, a march and a speak-out; the New College rally will include speaker Wagatwe Wanjuki, an activist who advocates for awareness of sexual assault and created the hashtag #survivorprivilege on Twitter, in which she encouraged survivors to share their experiences to show how sexual trauma affects lives.
The official symbol of SAAM is a teal ribbon. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to show support for SAAM by wearing teal every Tuesday in the month of April. More information about SAAM can be found on nsvrc.com/saam.