In the United States, April has been recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) for 17 years. At USF, it’s been celebrated for four. This year, in light of the #MeToo movement, Leigha Fleming, USF’s Title IX Coordinator, wants to use this year’s theme, “embrace your voice,” to amplify SAAM’s presence on campus. With events such as sign making for the San Francisco Walk Against Rape, an interactive theater performance and a survivor speakout, the Title IX office is hoping to give this month more weight than it has been given in previous years.
Fleming addressed ASUSF Senate during their weekly meeting on Wednesday, March 21, with information about the month’s activities and asked for their assistance in spreading the word. She discussed the symbolic importance of having Senate’s participation in SAAM.
Amaya Fox, the ASUSF freshman class representative, is one of four students on the Title IX task force who have been working closely with Fleming to organize April’s events. Fox said, “I think it is symbolic because we’ve seen at every level of government cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s symbolic to show that we’re acknowledging that.” She continued, “We’re saying that even at a university level, student government should be speaking out about these things because we are the people who will be entering local, state, federal government and be faced with those kinds of problems if we haven’t already.”
Harley Lehrke, the ASUSF School of Management representative, said, “Our role is publicizing SAAM because we are selected to be a voice for the student body, to be that link, to show them what’s going on and what there is to be a part of.”
One of last year’s events, the campus-wide march, did not get much participation or attendance. “I’m not sure how many students were there last year, but I know it was not many,” Fox said. “A big part of it is that people didn’t really know what it was. We’re doing a sign making event on April 2, so students will know what they’re seeing.”
This year, the campus-wide march is making stops at the Office of Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE), the Athletics Department, the School of Law, St. Ignatius Church and ASUSF, hopefully increasing student engagement. Fleming discussed the intentionality behind these specific stops, noting that the dorms are a space where students are supposed to feel safe, but are also a hotspot for sexual violence across campuses. “I think a big part of being student leaders is taking the initiative to get involved in these kinds of events and showing our peers and the student body that they can be here, too. We are taking that step forward and publicizing the event and showing our peers it’s something we all can be a part of, so hopefully with senate involvement it will raise awareness,” said Fox.