Colgate Organizations Recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month With Events, Social Media Campaigns

Rio Lacey, Staff Writer

Several organizations on Colgate University’s campus recognized the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) by participating in the Day of Action on April 4. This national day of visibility occurs annually on the first Tuesday of April as a way for communities to bring awareness to sexual violence and wear teal, the color of sexual violence. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, wearing teal is a way to demonstrate support for survivors. 

Colgate’s on-campus sexual violence resource center, Haven, kickstarted its SAAM initiatives on this Day of Action by tabling in the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop). At their table from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Haven Ambassadors handed out teal ribbons and shared information about other events planned for the month of April. Sophomore and Haven Ambassador Anna Martin was one of several students at Haven’s table outside the Smoothie and Deli station. 

“Students could represent their support for survivors by wearing teal, visiting the table in Coop with information about the month, and signing up for the Haven Newsletter,” Martin said. “The table in Coop was very useful in spreading awareness for the month, considering most students were unaware SAAM had begun.” 

Martin explained that Haven has been busier than usual in their preparations for the month, which includes events like the Survivor Speakout on April 11, Healthy Relationships Bingo on April 17, Teal Graduation Celebration on April 25 and Denim Day on April 26. Haven’s Assistant Director Michele Passonno and Associate Director of Survivor Support Services Charm Little-Ray led the planning efforts for these events and more. 

“In Haven, we have a saying — Bring the H.E.A.T. — which stands for Healing, Education, Action and Training,” Little-Ray said. “During SAAM, we look to engage the campus in events, outreach and educational opportunities that align with one or more of those pillars.” 

According to Little-Ray, this year’s SAAM calendar features several new events as a result of new partnerships with campus organizations. 

“One of our initiatives was to engage with departments and or groups we did not get the chance to last year,” Little-Ray said. “This led to collaborations with OUS for ‘Let’s Talk: It Takes a Village,’ SORT for ‘Baddies with Boundaries,’ ALANA’s Social Justice Interns for ‘Creative Expressions of Safety’ and First at Colgate and Recreation for ‘Healthy Relationship Bingo’ and ‘Free Yourself for SAAM Zumba.’” 

In addition to Haven’s initiatives, The Network is hosting its annual Take Back the Night Rally and March on Tuesday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. with poster-making in the Coop beforehand. Callie Smith, sophomore and Co-Team Leader of The Network is behind the preparations for this annual event. 

“The Network has to organize a route for the protest, gather supplies for posters, prepare chants, and create posters to raise awareness for the event,” Smith said. “After the march, we will have a small gathering on the Chapel steps where there will be a few speeches and, hopefully, a small performance from an acapella group.”

Each year, The Network shares the Take Back the Night Foundation’s movement to end sexual violence with Colgate’s community. According to Smith, this event fosters awareness of sexual assault on campus and is a valuable SAAM tradition. 

“The Network’s primary goal in Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to create spaces for students and self-identifying survivors to share their experiences, listen to each other, and educate one another,” Smith said. 

In addition to these events, this year’s SAAM initiatives include Greek Life Organization participation through a new Instagram account (@colgate_glo_sapas). The account is run by junior Chris Mardirossian, the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) SAPAS Representative, and sophomore Annabel Poitras, the Panhellenic Council SAPAS Representative. In their initiatives for Sexual Assault Prevention and Support (SAPAS), Mardirossian and Poitras have entered Colgate into the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s #30DaysofSAAM social media challenge, where they post pictures of student participation in SAAM events like Wear Teal Day on April 4. Mardirossian explained that the Instagram account will serve as a resource for education and awareness as well as a tool to encourage a dialogue around sexual assault at Colgate and beyond. 

“These conversations, and the existence of SAPAS Chairs, don’t stop once April ends and they don’t begin once April starts,” Mardirossian said. “That was another reason why I wanted to create the Instagram account — to solidify that SAPAS Chairs are real and that there is real work that comes with holding this position.”

As an intern for the Yes Means Yes program, Mardirossian also hopes to introduce a larger culture of consent and education on healthy communication through the IFC and as Phi Delta Theta’s SAPAS Chair. 

“Through Yes Means Yes, I’ve learned how important it is to acknowledge sexual assault, especially on this campus, and do what we can to eradicate that and increase visibility around that,” Mardirossian said. “However, I’ve learned that it’s really important to talk about the flip side of that and implement healthy forms of communication; yes, no means no, but in Yes Means Yes, we’re flipping the script to promote enthusiasm and healthy forms of consent in order to shift from rape culture to consent culture at Colgate.”

Through the Instagram account, Mardirossian aims to facilitate these conversations through Greek life settings, while still recognizing that not all feel comfortable in these spaces. In accordance with SAAM’s national 2023 campaign theme “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity,” the students behind the Instagram account aim to highlight diverse identities and their experiences on campus as a way to unify the student body behind SAAM’s cause. Junior and Gamma Phi Beta President Ellie Doolittle sits on the SAPAS Council for her organization and believes that Greek life at Colgate holds a pivotal role in the consent culture at Colgate. 

“The initiatives that IFC and Panhellenic are taking are unifying GLOs with a shared mission— creating safe spaces, fostering a community of support, and ultimately dismantling the transcending idea that Greek life perpetuates rape culture,” Doolittle said. 

To show their support for the kickoff of SAAM, Greek Life Organizations put up teal lights outside their front doors on Broad Street. Mardirossian also noted that the IFC and Panhellenic Council are brainstorming a fundraising event to close out SAAM with Julianne Thomas, the Campus Advocate of Madison County’s Center for Sexual Violence, Help Restore Hope. 

Throughout the rest of April, organizations on campus will come together to foster education, awareness, and support surrounding sexual assault at Colgate. For example, the third floor of Case-Geyer Library features a Shaw Wellness Center and Haven Display for SAAM. Students can find pins, stickers, and buttons on the bright teal table with educational resources. 

“We at Haven understand that culture change and campus-wide education takes a team, so being able to partner with so many different groups helps the message of sexual violence prevention—what that looks like and how to engage in it—reach so many we do not get to see,” Little-Ray said. “As ALANA said for MLK week: We are stronger together.”