Sexual assault has been in the national conversation this year maybe more than ever, and the University of Portland is furthering the narrative with events all week in honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Week, beginning April 9.
Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) has joined forces with ASUP, the Health and Counseling Center (HCC) and the Title IX office to host events that inform, open dialogue and engage all community members in the fight against sexual assault.
“None of this would be possible without everyone’s help,” Abby Sherman, president and co-founder of SASA said.
Members of the SASA executive team, ASUP senators and the HCC coordinators will be working the events, answering questions and educating students on this issue.
Monday: It’s On Us Pledge Drive
There will be a table set up in the academic quad from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday where students can sign the . The pledge is a personal commitment to be a part of the solution for sexual violence. SASA will also be handing out pins and stickers that students can wear during the week to show their support.
is a national campaign to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. The campaign was founded by former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. SASA president and co-founder, Abby Sherman, is a national student advisory committee member and representative for It’s On Us.
Tuesday: Teal Tuesday
On Tuesday, SASA is encouraging everyone to wear teal, the official color for sexual assault awareness. If you don’t own any teal, you can pick up pins and stickers from tables around campus to wear and show support.
Wednesday: Chain Reactions
Chain reactions will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the academic quad. Students will find tables set up where they can write down messages on small pieces of paper. These messages can include words of encouragement, personal stories or plans of action. The strips of paper will then be connected into a giant paper chain.
“We wanted to do something to get people engaged in a more active way,” said Sabrina Bernaldo-Olmedo, SASA executive team member and It’s On Us survivor and ally resources captain. “It shows a chain reaction and how people are working together to change our culture.”
Once the chain is completed, it will be used in Thursday night’s “Take Back the Night” event.
“The chain shows support, solidarity and encouragement for survivors of violence,” Tiger Simpson, Health and Counseling Center coordinator said.
Thursday: Take Back the Night
As students walk in, they will see the paper chain they created on Wednesday. The chain is intended to provide hope and encouragement and remind everyone that they have a community that supports them, Simpson explained.
“These are real people,” Simpson said. “Our job isn’t always to reevaluate policy. This week is about looking at how to support these people who have gone through this because they deserve that support.”
The chapel is a sanctuary space where students can share their stories. The night is very emotionally charged, and counseling resources will be available for the entire event, Sherman explained.
“I urge folks who don’t feel they have a story to share to come and listen,” Sherman said. “Nothing can really compare to hearing first-hand how much this impacts our community.”
SASA is teaming up with Villa Maria Hall to decorate a large banner that will be displayed on campus. The banner will contain positive messages and serve as a reminder to students of the things that they learned and shared throughout the week. The location of the banner has not yet been announced.