On April 1, 2001, the United States first established the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a program that many schools, including William Jewell College, have adopted into their schedules. While it was set up in the midst of feminist protests meant to “Take Back the Night” from street aggressors during the 1970s, the month’s activities have expanded to include all victims, male or female, adult or child.
Jewell held a number of events throughout the month to promote awareness. Among the events were two lectures by members of the Metropolitan Association to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), a group that has partnered with the College for past events. They discussed sexual assault dynamics and the community’s role in reporting assault. It was held April 6, and a second event discussing responding to victims is scheduled for April 25. Tables were set up in the Yates-Gill Union with stickers and ribbons to promote the cause.
The Smith Lecture on safe drinking practices was given by Rabbi Schuster on April 3. It was of particular importance to Dr. Andrew Pratt, Vice President for social responsibility and engagement at Jewell. He finds that alcohol and sexual misconduct are often involved with each other. Schuster’s lecture, which emphasized moderation and careful practices when drinking, marked one step of many to educate the campus.
However, when they started the SAAM program at the college last spring, the Pryor Legacy Class that pioneered the project aimed to reach a particular group above all others: victims of child sexual assault. By setting up programs that emphasize child sexual assault in particular, the school gives victims a chance to recover from their experiences alongside supportive students and faculty members.
“We need to address sexual assault as it happens in our community,” Pratt says.
This includes not just preventing it from happening on campus, but also helping those who have been affected by it in the past. The program is built on students respecting and looking out for each other, and by reaching out to victims, participants learn to “intervene when intervention is necessary.” In addition, SAAM creates awareness of community resources for coping, such as a well-equipped and confidential counseling system.
In general, the programs have been met with lukewarm reactions. The MOCSA lecture, for instance, was an organized event for at least one fraternity on campus, but Pratt finds that not many other campus organizations have individually scheduled events.
“It’s not a fun topic,” Pratt says, “but I bet we all know a victim.”