Support and recognition persists

Xavier groups adapt to online format for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

As a part of SAAM, EmpowerXU usually organizes a couch demonstration on the Xavier yard. This year, this club transferred the event to the homes of members.

Campus clubs and offices will support students through various discussions, videos and events throughout April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

SAAM, first observed in 2001, is designed to raise awareness of sexual violence as well as provide individuals with spaces to think critically about solutions to related problems. The SAAM committee has been meeting since November to plan this month’s events, though events were recently made virtual.

It’s On X, part of a national initiative to educate students about power-based violence, will be posting educational programming and videos on their Instagram throughout the month. The page already hosts a video of Xavier students across the country showcasing everyone’s responsibility of preventing sexual assault. 

It’s On X will also be posting videos of faculty reading poetry and prose arguing against power-based violence. It’s On X intern and EmpowerXU president Riley Head noted that this event has been altered to conform to remote learning, alongside many other events among the groups. 

“We’re going to be focused on what SAAM is and different tactics about empowering survivors and supporting survivors during quarantine,” Head said of the recent redesigns made to fit new COVID-19 mandates. 

“We just have to make sure that we as a committee continue to promote the services available to students who are at home but might still seek support,” Title IX program director Talia Tuesta said. 

EmpowerXU will be hosting several events throughout the month, including discussions of Chanel Miller’s book “Know My Name” and Netflix watch parties of the stalking-based drama “You.” 

Despite the challenge of physical distance, EmpowerXU will be connecting and conversing with students by partnering with other campus groups on Instagram Live videos.

EmpowerXU will also partner with Confidential Advocate Susan Pelle to host Survivors Speak, a protected speak-out where survivors of sexual violence, harassment and stalking can voice their experiences. The submissions will be curated through an online gallery.

“It’s a really exciting initiative and shows how Xavier is still a community, even if we’re not physically together,” Head said. 

“We want it to be as intimate as it can be and as safe as it can be,” Pelle said.  “The hope is that when survivors go into that space, they feel validated.”

BRAVE will also be hosting an Instagram virtual exhibit called “What Were You Wearing?” The gallery, updated every Friday, will feature student quotes about their experiences with sexual assault alongside recreations of the outfits they were wearing. 

“It’s supposed to debunk the myth that what you were wearing contributes to your sexual assault,” junior BRAVE Peer Educator Manasa Pradhan said. “It shows that it can happen at any time and it’s nobody’s fault but the perpetrator’s.”

The installation was originally going to be held as a formal exhibit in Gallagher Student Center and utilized in the annual “Take Back the Night” march.  

“Obviously everyone’s disappointed that we couldn’t do a formal display, but using Instagram allows more people to see it,” junior BRAVE Peer Educator Anna Moug said. 

Tuesta also noted that she wants students to be aware that resources regarding power and gender-based violence are still available to them, even off-campus. 

“Title IX still addresses all off campus or electronic harassment or impact that students are still experiencing,” Tuesta said. 

Chief Title IX officer Kate Lawson noted that the office is prepared to see an uptick in digital harassment and intimate partner violence and is available by phone or email from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each business day. 

Pelle added that confidential resources are still available to students by email, phone, text or Zoom. Confidential campus advocates can give further resources through these channels.

SAAM activities, events and posts will continue throughout April. More programming information can be found on the BRAVE, CDI, EmpowerXU and It’s On X Instagram pages.

Above, some of BRAVE’s peer educators join their leader and Xavier’s Confidential Advocate, Susan Pelle, in planning SAAM’s “What Were You Wearing?” Exhibit.