Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Raising awareness for sexual assault in April

Posted on May 02, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

By Julie Pike, Free Press Staff

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. SAAM is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent it. The campaign began in the late 1990s. The month of April was selected by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) who created the awareness project.

Each year during the month of April, different community based organizations, schools, businesses and other groups plan events and activities to highlight sexual violence as a public health, human rights and social justice issue and to reinforce the need for prevention efforts. The slogan, resources and materials for the SAAM campaign are coordinated by NSVRC, which helps assisting different anti-sexual assault organizations throughout the country.

USM has been recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month for many years. Each year programming changes, all with the intent of raising awareness.

Sarah Holmes, the Assistant Dean of Students, states that: “The more awareness raising we do, the more reports we see – not meaning it happens more, but that more people know to come forward to get help and support.”

USM takes their own measures to prevent sexual assault at school and in the community. According to USM’s “Annual Security Report” the university prohibits dating and domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in all forms. Violators of these policies may be subject to criminal prosecution and disciplinary measures, including dismissal.

At USM, different organizations on campus conduct educational programs to increase awareness, understanding and prevention of sexual harassment and violence. All students and employees are required to participate in these educational programs.

USM’s Campus Safety Project staff conducts educational programs designed to raise awareness of these crimes and incidents and to encourage students and staff to be an active bystander. Some of the educational programs include: Speak About It, UnSpoken Maine and Title IX, an online primary prevention program called “Not Any More” by Student Success.

More recently, on April 26, there was a film showing of “The Mask You Live In” that was co-sponsored by the USM Campus Safety Project and partnered with Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine (SARSSM) and Maine Boys to Men. The film is a documentary that was released in 2015, that shows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves as they face America’s harsh definition of masculinity. The film is an example of the impact that our culture’s pressure of masculinity has on society as a whole.

In conjunction with the film showing during the month of April, emails have been sent out to all students to inform them about sexual assault.

The Campus Safety Project also uses social media to spread awareness, community partners have been tabling on the Gorham and Lewiston campuses, and SARSSM has held office hours of the Gorham and Portland campus.

USM also has ongoing awareness campaigns on campus, such as, Community Advocate Resource Tabling, Floor and Hall Meetings, Campus Safety Project Facebook postings, educational bulletin boards, Consent Days, and Take Back the Night Rallies.

USM’s “Annual Security Report” has exact directions informing students on what to do if they are sexually assaulted, experience domestic violence, dating violence or stalking. For the complete sexual assault policy, relationship violence and stalking policy for USM, students can pick up a physical copy in the Dean of Students Office.

“Sexual assault is a problem at every college and university. National statistics tell us that 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault during their college years. At USM, incidents of sexual assault are under reported,” Holmes said.

Students can contact Public Safety or local law enforcement if they feel they are in danger of a sexual assault.

University Health and Counseling Services provides confidential supports to any students facing sexual assault and those impacted by it.

All employees at the university are also mandated reporters of sexual assault, dating or domestic violence and stalking. Those reports are sent to Sarah Holmes. Holmes is the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for the school. She works with students who have faced sexual assault to provide the support and resources they need.

The biggest resource for students are the sexual assault centers in every region. In Portland and Gorham, SARSSM is the agency that would help. There is a 24-hour hotline that anyone can call for help at 1-800-313-9900.

 

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