Going beyond awareness: PASA’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month is in full swing

Sexual Assault Awareness Month has been observed nationally since 2001, and events were first organized on campus by PASA in 2017. (Photo Courtesy of Ella Goodwin ’21)

Pards Against Sexual Assault (PASA) is currently holding events for its fourth annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). And this year, students may be more invested in their cause than ever.

Libby Mayer ’22, co-president of PASA, said the group has always been important on campus, but now, in light of recent events, student involvement has been increasing.

“I feel like over the summer there was a lot of momentum in terms of student motivation to approach and educate about sexual assault at Lafayette, especially having to do with the anti-violence and black at laf [Instagram] pages,” Mayer said. “There was just a lot of dialogue going on, and I think that momentum really helped us in the fall with our open letter.”

“Coming back to campus, I think it’s easy to sort of get back into the routine of things and forget the narratives that were happening over the summer, so I feel like our goal [is] to help re-engage the entire student community and have a lot of different events for people to engage in whatever way they feel is most helpful and relevant to them,” she added.

A variety of events will be held throughout the course of SAAM, a nationally recognized initiative that started in 2001. And while this will be the college’s second virtual SAAM, it will likely be very different from the last, according to Mayer.

“We’re obviously not the only people on campus that are passionate about ending sexual assault, and there’s a lot more people behind us,” she explained. “I think that’s become apparent from the summer, that this is an issue that a lot of students care about on our campus.”

The first event of this year’s SAAM was a yoga session with trauma-informed instructor Liz Jordan this past Wednesday. Jordan will be holding another session on Sunday, April 18 at 10 a.m.

PASA will also be tabling on two Tuesdays this month as a way to “just be visible on campus,” according to Mayer. Other events include discussions and lectures throughout the month, including a gender violence discussion with Lehigh University student group Break the Silence on April 13 at 7 p.m., a sexual liberation discussion with sociologist Ignacio Rivera on April 14 at 7 p.m., a sexual assault and Greek Life discussion with PASA founder Nahim Ferdousi on April 20 at 7. p.m. There will also be a discussion on how to support survivors with sexual assault and trauma expert Jimanekia Eborn on April 29 at 7 p.m..

The group will also be holding two fundraisers, one for the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley and another for Third Street Alliance, a shelter for women in children located just down the hill from the college.

Another month-long event is the SAAM Book Club, a new initiative for PASA. Ella Goodwin ’21, co-president of PASA, explained that for this event, the committee found articles related to sexual violence and sexual assault awareness. Anyone interested can provide their email on the sign up sheet in @Pasa_Laf‘s Instagram bio. The articles will soon be sent out to anyone signed up, and toward the end of the month, there will be a discussion held about them.

“I think it’s going to be collaborative, where you can add your thoughts and notes to a document while you’re reading, so you can see what other people in the article club thought of them,” Goodwin said.

SAAM will close off with a rally and vigil organized by PASA on the evening of Friday, April 30. Goodwin explained that this will essentially take the place of the Take Back the Night event that PASA typically holds in the fall. Melissa Garrison, director of the counseling center and Alexandra Hendrickson, college chaplain, will be present to help PASA with the event.

“We try to fit the balance for events for awareness, education and prevention, and also events to support survivors and kind of create a space for survivors on campus,” Goodwin said.

Students can register for any of the events on OurCampus.

Mayer said that some of the events of last year’s SAAM did not translate well due to the virtual format. This year, while most events are still virtual, the group feels more prepared, she said.

“The fact that we’re living in this partially virtual world has sort of opened up doors for us, because in the past we probably wouldn’t have been able to get the funds to bring [a speaker] to campus, so now we’re really excited that we get to bring two speakers to campus to share their knowledge with us and bring students in from all corners of campus to hear their wisdom,” Mayer said.

“It’s interesting to note that it’s called Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but I think we’re hoping that it goes beyond just awareness,” said Goodwin. “We’re hoping that it…can give some people tools to keep educating themselves and think about how we can take what we are learning and use it in practice in our daily lives, and hold each other accountable to be a better community”

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