The Orion

Awareness month: The forgotten month?

Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

Emma Vidak-Benjamin

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Whether you may or may not know, April is national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a critical month in today’s college culture. Now more than ever, people are increasingly concerned with our nation’s rape, violence and assault culture of the 21st century.

In efforts to stop this culture, schools across the country involve themselves in awareness organizations and events, such as Chico State is doing with SAAM. However, we have to ask ourselves, does hosting an awareness month such as this actually raise awareness among students? Are Chico State students truly responding to the importance of the awareness this month brings to our campus?

My answer would be that no, I don’t believe students are effectively or progressively responding to SAAM on our campus. Of course, I think it’s highly important that our college focuses on raising awareness about sexual assault every single day. The month of April is critical to these efforts because of its dedication to awareness.

Unfortunately, students just don’t seem to be aware of SAAM: when it is, what it stands for, what it means or who it helps. I wouldn’t have known about SAAM if it hadn’t been for the flyers hung up on the walls in buildings, as this was the only form of publicity I noticed. Because of this, it makes it hard for students to care about or invest in the issues we’re trying to call to action. If no one’s paying attention, how big of an impact could this all make?

For those who are unaware, SAAM is intended to raise public awareness about sexual abuse and the ways to prevent and help an abusive situation. Through public events such as Take Back the Night, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and Denim Day, activists of SAAM draw attention to the devastation that sexual abuse can cause in a community or household.

The SAAM website provides multiple resources for college students, faculty and anyone involved on a college campus. These resources are intended to educate people on sexual violence: how to spot it, when to report it, how to step in and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

After researching organizations such as this in Chico, I found out about Chico’s Safe Place program: Chico State’s program for violence protection and intervention. Safe Place’s office is located on Brice Avenue, and it held an open house on April 11 to show students that its new building is meant to be a resource center that focuses on the campus community.

However, I certainly didn’t know about any of this, and odds are that most Chico State students had no knowledge of Safe Place. This is extremely unfortunate, since the organization is so vital to the sexual safety and well-being of our campus peers. Resources such as Safe Place don’t deserve to be so unknown considering how big of an impact they could make on one person’s life.

Considering 1 in 4 women is a rape victim, 80-90 percent of people are sexually assaulted by someone they know and 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted during a five-year college career, it’s astounding that college students don’t utilize or recognize the importance of paying attention to this issue. I’ve noticed that Chico State students in particular remain blind to the efforts of activist groups such as Safe Place, and it’s about time that changed.

Circumstances such as SAAM need to be more widely publicized around campus in order to further inform students, as well as get them involved. It could be through sending more emails out to students about events and dates throughout the month. People from Safe Place could stand on campus and pass out informational flyers or add more content to the Chico State website that has links and videos pertaining to sexual assault prevention and intervention resources.

So students, I urge you to start realizing how important awareness months such as this one are, because college students seem to not only be uninterested, but also uninformed of the benefits that awareness months bring to dark and disturbing situations.

Read about Chico State’s calendar of events for SAAM.

Emma Vidak-Benjamin can be reached at [email protected] or @gnarlyemma on Twitter.

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Awareness month: The forgotten month?