Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) started in the Women’s Resource Center at Texas A&M about 20 years ago. Since then, it has been celebrated on campus in one form or another.
This year, SAAM will look different due to shelter-in-place ordinances and online classes. The Office of the Dean of Student Life (ODSL) is pushing an online campaign to raise awareness for sexual assault, support survivors and educate students about consent.
Coordinator for Interpersonal Violence Prevention in ODSL Denise Crisafi said the goal of SAAM is to recognize sexual assault as a serious public health issue. Through their programming at A&M, Crisafi said they’re hoping to bring education on the topic of sexual assault and consent to the A&M community, specifically prevention, identification and how to support survivors.
“Sexual Assault Awareness Month is recognized internationally,” Crisafi said. “Really every country has a set of programs that might be in many ways relatable to survivors just as an identified group of individuals, but also sometimes that programming is also unique to certain populations and their needs.”
Many of the programs ODSL has planned are in response to questions students ask them regularly about bystander intervention, consent and healthy relationships, said Cristafi.
“I think it’s really important for folks to understand that although [Sexual Assault Awareness Month] is something we formally recognize in April, it’s important year round,” Denise said. “Our office offers this type of programming all year.”
Most years, ODSL puts on tabling and events in the MSC or other areas of campus, but because of the coronavirus outbreak, that is not possible this year. Instead, Interpersonal Violence Prevention Specialist in Health Promotion Jazmin Jones and the team at ODSL has planned online initiatives.
“All of our in-person events are canceled because of COVID-19, but we are going to be doing a social media campaign,” Jones said. “One of our social media campaigns is called ‘What’s Your Teal?’ So, we have survivors, friends, allies, and supporters share their stories about their experiences, and that’s going to be shared on the Office of the Dean of Student Life’s social media.”
ODSL is also sharing facts and statistics everyday on their pages, @tamustudentlife on Facebook and Twitter and @tamu_studentlife on Instagram.
“I’m all about being inclusive, and when I say being inclusive I mean really being about diversity,” Jones said. “So with our facts, it’s a wide variety. It’ll talk about the military, it’ll talk about the police, it’ll talk about our LGBTQ+ community, it’ll talk about our native students, it’ll talk about black students. We found different facts to speak to each group.”
Health Promotion will be posting documentaries and podcasts related to sexual assault awareness on its social media pages, @tamuhealthpromotion on Facebook and Instagram and @tamu_hp on Twitter. No webinars or Zoom meetings will take place because Jones said she wanted to give students time to engage with the material on their own time and not worry about conflicts with class work or other responsibilities.
Communications Coordinator for ODSL Lindsey Stluka said she hopes students will take this opportunity to learn about the resources available to them in Bryan-College Station.
“One of the biggest messages we want to send is that we are here to support students that might need us,” Stluka said. “We’re pushing out local resources that students can utilize, and we want to connect survivors with supportive messaging and get them on the road to getting the help they might need.”