Recap of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April marked a period of transitions as the university adapted to remote learning styles. But that did not stop Chargers from participating in Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) while away from campus.

SAAM aims to spread education and awareness for sexual violence in all forms including—but not limited to—harassment, family violence, assault, exploitation, and stalking.

Ashley Dunn, director of Title IX/VAWA Compliance, said that the cause is important in college communities because “research shows a disproportionate number of victims of sexual violence are between the ages of 18 to 24; the age range of a traditional college student.”

Sofia Martinez, wellness liaison for the Undergraduate Student Government Association since spring 2019, coordinated with Dunn to recreate the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Pledge video that they produced for SAAM in 2019. This year’s video included clips from the pledge, taken by the University of New Haven students, faculty, and staff within their remote learning destinations.

Martinez said the pledge video’s goal was to show familiar faces taking a stance on sexual assault and showing that people on campus officially support survivors. She stressed the importance of this because Title IX can be a sensitive, awkward, and daunting topic for students to discuss.

“Reading a pledge can be powerful, but hearing those peers that you know and respect engage in this public commitment holds more meaning than a signature on a piece of paper,” Dunn said.

Martinez said she hopes that the university community “knows that they are not alone, even if they feel like it,” said Martinez. “Whatever feelings you have are valid, and when you are ready to take any first step, there are so many individuals on campus who are ready to support you.”

COVID-19 has increased social isolation, which increases domestic violence incidents. This creates added purpose and importance to this year’s SAAM goals.

“Our individual commitments to engage in a community that is free from harassment and violence is no less important, but we must not forget the ability we have to maximize our impact when we come together as a community,” said Dunn, “Although we are physically distanced, this video reminds us that we can still impact one another and our community if we stand as one.”

What made this year’s pledge video unique was its balance between education and hope that connected students and faculty despite distances.

Many Greek organizations, such as Delta Phi Epsilon and Alpha Sigma Alpha, also participated in this issue on social media, with both posted collages of members holding signs with encouraging words to support survivors and statistics to educate the public.
Chi Kappa Rho sorority supported SAAM and their local philanthropy, the Milford Rape Crisis Center (MRCR), by posting photos from an event held by their organization that supported the MRCR and the Clothesline Project, an organization that aims to bring awareness to the men, women, and children that experience sexual violence.

Community members looking to utilize support services can review the Resource & Referrals for Students Experiencing Sexual Misconduct, or contact the Milford Rape Crisis Center’s by visiting their website or calling the 24/7 Hotline at 203-878-1212.