SAAM Urges Assault Prevention

By Day Robins

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), student and administrative members of the Sexual Assault Oversight Committee (SAOC) have put together a program of activities intended to support victims of sexual violence as well as spark discussion on campus about sexual violence prevention and education.

“It says something about our community values when things like this are on the calendar,” said Director of Health and Wellness Education and SAOC Co-Chair Barbara McCall. “It sends the message that [our community] thinks that this is an important conversation to be having … and [that] we want to support those who have been affected by sexual violence as best we can.”

“The SAOC’s goal, in general, has been to create a gathering place on campus where many different offices and individuals on campus who are working toward sexual assault prevention and education can collaborate and combine manpower into action and practice,” said Jordan McKinley ’14, co-chair of the SAOC.

Funding for the events will come from a campus grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. Since the release of funds in February, the grant has been used to fund a variety of activities and trainings aimed at promoting a community-based approach sexual violence on campus.

“Sexual assault education, prevention and response has been a priority for many years at Middlebury … It’s absolutely central to our commitment to providing a safe and inclusive community,” said Associate Dean for Judicial Affairs and Student Life Karen Guttentag, the project director of the grant.

“While working on the grant… it seemed natural to say [that] … part of these funds should be used for programming both that stems from student interest and involvement and also supports the work that many other offices are already engaging in,” said McCall.
An SAOC subcommittee broadly entitled “Education and Workshops” began talking about SAAM programming last Fall. Many of the ideas for the events this month came from these subcommittee meetings.

The “B.R.A.V.E.” workshop, one of the activities that is part of the April program, is a result of McKinley’s ideas from the subcommittee.

The workshop, led by TaeKwon Do Instructor Kellie Thomas, will focus on techniques for personal safety. “The great thing about [Thomas] is that her lens is all about empowerment and finding your voice and confidence,” McCall said.

“We wanted to … have a class that spoke more toward empowerment through being able to physically protect yourself,” McKinley added.

As part of the program, Men’s Outreach Coordinator at UVM Keith Smith facilitated a discussion about the confining stereotypes of masculinity at last week’s SAOC meeting.

“I’m also really excited about having Keith Smith come down from UVM and talk to us,” McKinley said. “He does a lot of really good work involving men … and talking about how traditional gender roles and the concept of masculinity play into sexual assault and how we incorporate men into sexual assault prevention.”

“If someone wanted to start a support group for white males, it would probably be laughed out of the room,” said Kyler Blodgett ’17 who took Smith’s J-term workshop, “The Man Box.” “There’s a lot of support networks for women for sexual assault and recovery, but there just aren’t the same resources for men.”

Blodgett also noted that discussion about masculinity on the College’s campus is not prominent enough.

“The first rule about masculinity is don’t talk about masculinity,” said Smith at last week’s SAOC meeting.

In light of this problem, McCall said that SAOC has taken on the task of teaching students about how to be engaged men.

“It made sense to follow [last week’s meeting] up with an educational opportunity,” said McCall in reference to Smith’s workshop, “Sex, Hooking Up, and Consent: What You Need to Know.” “There’s something really powerful about having [Smith] facilitate this important conversation through a different lens.”

While Smith’s workshop will be geared toward sexual assault prevention, MiddSafe advocates will emphasize the healing element of SAAM at the “Supporting a Friend 101” workshop, Meditation For Survivors and Yoga For Survivors.

“For trauma victims, particularly people who have experienced sexual violence or sexual assault, it can be a very disembodying experience,” said Marcella Maki ’14, who proposed the idea for the Yoga for Survivors event. “[Yoga] can be a really useful part of wellness and taking steps toward recovery and self love.”

Looking to the future, both McKinley and McCall expressed interest in making SAAM programming an annual event.

These events, “are certainly a re-establishment” of sexual assault awareness on campus, according to McCall. A complete calendar of events can be found at go/saam14.

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SAAM Urges Assault Prevention