In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), Sewanee has undertaken numerous campus wide campaigns to initiate conversation about sexual assault and create a safer campus for all students. A light-blue ribbon is the symbol associated with SAAM, and anyone who has one on his person is visually confirming his solidarity with a social campaign dedicated to informing communities on the reality of sexual violence and the prevention of sexual assault.
The severity of sexual crimes as a grave violation of basic human rights has been communicated on campus in a number of different media. The 2016 “It’s On Us” social campaign, created by the Student Government Association and other student groups, emphasized the need for everyone in Sewanee to be accountable for preventing sexual violence. The Sewanee Theater produced Good Kids this season, a show about sexual assault in the age of social media. The Wick’s Her Side of the Story articles raised awareness of very real and threatening issues that affect members of a community even as gracious and unique as Sewanee. Phi Kappa Epsilon has fundraised for Chattanooga Rape Crisis Center with the sale of “Pop the Question. Get Consent” bottle openers.
Sexual crimes and consent are directly related, as emphasized through the various posters around Sewanee’s campus reiterating that sexual relationships can only be healthy if consent is clear and present. Both verbal and physical agreement are completely necessary for a consensual act of sex, and if either party needs to justify or argue their case, full sexual consent has not occurred. Cindy Cruz (C’18) played a large role in bringing SAAM to Sewanee. “The Primary goal is to educate students, faculty, staff, and community members on consent, what it is, what it looks like, and how rape can be prevented. It is to stand in solidarity with women and men who have been sexually assaulted in the past,” shared Cruz.
Kim Williams (C’17) believes we have a lot of work ahead of us to make Sewanee a safe and supportive environment. “Personally, I have not seen any substantive changes in my time here. Although I’ve heard great things about organizations on campus like the Wick and a few about the University Wellness Center, the responses I’ve seen from the administration have been downright appalling. Although centers like the Wick are equipped to provide shelter immediately following the assault, the administration is terrible at providing long-term support for the victims. They often discredit the claims and end up forcing the victims to either face their assailants in classes and dormitories or leave the University,” said Williams.
To perpetuate the mission of SAAM, individuals must continue community dialogue, education, and systems of support during the other eleven months of the year. For more information regarding SAAM and how you can make a difference in your community, please visit http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/sexual-assault-awareness-month.