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Title IX, Residence Life among campus groups organizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Donut Stop Believin’, the first official event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, provided students with information on campus resources such as Title IX and Grinnell Advocates, while also serving coffee and donuts. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

By Hannah Bentley

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is underway both nationally and at Grinnell, as various organizations raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault in society and the means by which it can be prevented.

The month originally started out as more of a broad coalition promoting awareness across the U.S., but this has changed as preventative measures became more important in the eyes of activists. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) website, “By the mid-2000s, SAAM incorporated prevention more heavily, focusing on areas such as communities, workplaces and college campuses. These campaigns discussed ways that individuals and communities can stop sexual assault before it happens by changing behaviors and promoting respect.”

The NSVRC ensures that college campuses receive the resources they need to fight sexual assault through SAAM with funding. Like many colleges across the U.S., Grinnell is participating in SAAM events.

“This year, SAAM is a collaboration between Title IX, Student [Health and] Wellness (SHAW), Grinnell Advocates and Residence Life,” said Emily Howe, Sexual Respect and Harm Reduction Post-Bac.

Through this partnership, Evette Massey, the Residence Life Coordinator for CaNaDa, wanted to approach the issue from “a trauma-informed lens.”

“This month, we’re kind of keeping a little low-key, not so much in your face,” she said.

Although the programming is not “in your face,” each event is important for sexual assault awareness. Earlier this week campus partners including Wellness, Residence Life and Grinnell Advocates hosted Donut Stop Believin’, which provided donuts, coffee and resources to students wishing to learn more about sexual respect. Upcoming events include a Global Catcalling Workshop on April 8 and Crafting a Community of Respect on April 10, an evening of crafting hosted by Weekend.

“All are meant to promote not only sexual respect but also an overall general respect of people in our communities,” said Massey.

SAAM is particularly important on college campuses like Grinnell according to its organizers. “It helps us come together from across campus and intentionally take time to reflect on our role in changing our culture to create a community of respect. SAAM functions not only raises awareness but also highlight response resources and focus on prevention,” wrote Howe in an email to The S&B.

Massey reflected further on the relevance of SAAM at Grinnell. “I have a problem with themed months sometimes, … but I think it’s good and kind of cool that we have a specific month just, like, gearing all our efforts towards this so then maybe it’ll help set up the conversation to last throughout … the year,” she said.

According to Howe, there are efforts that Title IX and Student Wellness take to promote awareness throughout the year, including events such as Sexual Respect Community Value Follow-up Conversations, Sex Week, self-defense workshop Elemental, team and organization based active bystander and Title IX trainings.

In terms of the future of SAAM at Grinnell, Massey highlighted the importance of helping to cultivate a more inclusive space for respect.

“We love programming around prevention. … We’re hoping we get that right this time and we can only improve. … We hope this becomes a regular occurrence every April and that our programming becomes more robust,” she said.

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