Sexual Assault Awareness Month fights for prevention, creates discussion around consent.
The UC Davis campus and a number of student organizations came together in April to raise awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. From a calendar of events held throughout the month to symbolic pairs of jeans and teal ribbons on the West Quad trees, SAAM’s goal was to fight for prevention and create a discussion around consent.
SickSpits, a spoken word collective on campus, joined hands with the Sexual Assault Awareness and Advocacy Club to host an open mic event for SAAM.
“SickSpits strives to create a safer space where members of the collective can express themselves and join in a love for poetry and performance,” said Gloria Marin, a fourth-year international relations and Spanish double major and the SickSpits treasurer, in an email interview. “We worked with [SAAAC] last year and wanted to do this event again, and provide a space for survivors and warriors to share and heal. We made sure to keep performances limited to those related to the theme and ensure a respect for the survivors and warriors.”
Marin expressed the importance of creating a safe space where people are able to share and articulate difficult stories through art with people who are willing to listen.
“It was empowering to see our performers feel comfortable enough to share experiences that deeply impacted them,” Marin said. “It’s important to know that there are people willing to listen to even the most difficult things we have to say, and seeing performers take the stage is truly a special experience.”
Art such as spoken word poetry gives the performer an outlet through which difficult experiences and emotions can be expressed. In Marin’s opinion, art can help survivors recuperate from the past and make sense of the present.
“As a survivor of sexual assault, events like this Open Mic and Take Back the Night were key to my healing and acceptance of the past,” Marin said. “I really think there is something irreplaceable about art’s power to join people together and show support for one another when they need it most.”
Greek life organizations were also involved in raising awareness for SAAM. Zeta Beta Tau presented its annual Green Light Go philanthropy event on April 30 on the Quad. As elaborated on the Facebook event page, the program “aims to educate participants on sexual assault prevention, bystander intervention, and healthy relationships with their partners.”
The philanthropy event consisted of a game similar to the familiar version of “green light go” many have played for fun, where participants run as far as they can get during the green light, and have to stop at the red light. But Zeta Beta Tau added a twist called “yellow light” which was described as “a compelling analogy for consent in relationships where participants practice responding to Green as Yes, Red as No, and Yellow also as No.”
Dhruv Nandakumar, a second-year computer science major, was one of the founding members of Zeta Beta Tau in 2016. Nandakumar wanted to start an organization where he and his brothers could add their own direction to do something different on campus, particularly in terms of raising awareness against sexual violence.
“Sexual violence prevention is something that we need to incorporate more on campus and preventing rape culture and stopping the spread of rape culture dead in its tracks. It’s something that we are very passionate about,” Nandakumar said.
Nandakumar believes that the yellow light twist helped facilitate a discussion between partners in whether they want to proceed or take a step back, emphasizing the necessity of complete consent.
“It’s where you can move forward, but before you move forward, you to ask your partner if they’re okay with moving forward with you, and then you [can] take a step forward,” Nandakumar said. “And we feel like this really facilitates a discussion about consent and why it’s important. We gave them a lot of examples of what you can ask because we work closely with a lot of organizations on campus, like CARE.”
Nandakumar and Zeta Beta Tau emphasized the necessity of stopping rape culture before it takes a larger toll than it already has. They pointed out that sexual violence is a daily occurence and that preventative measures, along with raising awareness, are good ways to begin counteracting it.
“It is very, very important that we address this issue before it grows any further,” Nandakumar said. “And I think we addressed [that] in the speech [at the event] — that it’s very important we stop [sexual assault] dead in its tracks right now, before we allow more people to get hurt or allow the rape culture to grow or sustain. We need to stop it.”
Written by: Sahiti Vemula — firstname.lastname@example.org