By Madelyn Jones
It’s time to add a teal ribbon to your favorite jacket because this April is the 17th Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The specific theme and focus for this year is “Embrace Your Voice.” This phrase was chosen to, “help individuals, communities and the private sector understand how they can take action to promote safety, respect and equality to stop sexual assault before it happens,” as explained by Willamette’s Interpersonal Violence Prevention Educator (IVPE), Jacqueline Leung.
If you are unfamiliar with Leung, you might have seen her tabling at Goudy a few weeks ago with a sign reading “Consent is” that students were encouraged to write on, as one of her many initiatives.
“I offer workshops on domestic violence, consent, healthy relationships, alcohol/drug abuse, healthy masculinity, a new bystander intervention training … I also planned events on campus related to violence prevention… outreach events (“Consent Is,” “White Ribbon campaign,” “Denim Day”, etc) and other activities as requested,” she said, explaining more about what her job entails.
Throughout the month, Leung has been working with students to set up events like a consent and escalation workshop. Denim Day and Take Back the Night are two events that are yet to happen that students are encouraged to take part it. On April 27, Denim Day, Leung encourages people, “to show solidarity to survivors around the world, protesting the misconception that ‘what you wear’ is a valid excuse for sexual assault.”
Students for Feminism President Ryleigh Norgrove (‘21) has worked with Leung to bring Take Back the Night to campus for another year. The event will take place in the Bistro at 7 p.m. on April 28.
“Take Back the Night is an international event and non-profit organization with the mission of ending sexual, relationship, and domestic violence in all forms. The event is intended as a protest and direct action against rape and other forms of sexual, relationship and domestic violence. Our event will consist of scheduled speakers, a “Speak Out,” March and Candlelight Vigil,” explained Norgrove.
Take Back the Night is one way American people show solidarity and support to survivors and gives an idea of what this month aims to do Sexual Assault Awareness Month is about spreading information about healthy relationships, offering support for victims and starting a discussion about sexual assault on college campuses, specifically at WU. No one is alone in their fight,” added Norgrove.
If you decide to come to the event, be aware you are walking into a safe space. Survivors have the opportunity to share their stories and voices, so their vulnerability is expected to be responded to with support and kindness.
Unfortunately, Willamette is not exempt from cases of sexaul assault. College campuses are known to have higher rates of assaults than other environments. Listen to the information being spread this month and go to the events that are designed to give you practical knowledge, so you are more equipped to combat these dangers.
Everybody on this campus has a part in stopping assaults. Often times, this will be through bystander intervention. If you see something suspicious, scope out the situation or ask someone more comfortable to.
“As a witness, you should intervene and stop the assault from continuing, being a passive bystander is just as harmful,” Norgorve said.
Leung shared two important statistics that she wants the campus to be aware of: “More than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October or November, [and] students are at an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college.”
It is important for statistics like these to be widely known so communities can become more knowledgeable about the problems they will have to face and tackle.
These events put on by community leaders are all in place to help nurture a Willamette and a Salem community that does not tolerate sexual assault, takes the words and feelings of survivors seriously and create a safer place to exist. Take at least one day of this month to broaden your knowledge about a topic involved, like consent, self defense or bystander intervention.
SAAM stands to make communities on how to be safer for all of its people through education. It teaches respect of people, their bodies and their boundaries.
If you want to be involved with activism on campus, Students for Feminism is always looking for volunteers. You can contact Ryleigh Norgrove at ranorgrove@ willamette.edu for more information.
If you are interested in being a Sexual Assault Response Ally (SARA), look for when they hire next spring. They are adding “an extensive Title IX aspect to our training program so that we can better serve students who may be interested in, or who are already going through the Title IX process,” reported their President, junior Abrian Sabo.
Put at least one day aside this month to go to a local event and learn about what you can do to create a safer Willamette, and a safer world.