PASA to uplift survivors and educate students during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month events focus on raising awareness and creating spaces for survivors. (Photo courtesy of Ella Goodwin ’21)

Sexual Assault Awareness Month events focus on raising awareness and creating spaces for survivors. (Photo courtesy of Ella Goodwin ’21)

Isabella Gaglione, Staff Writer

For Annika Murray ‘23 and Libby Mayer ‘22, co-presidents of Pards Against Sexual Assault (PASA), April is a time for advocacy and change.

“This month is not just about awareness, but it’s about pushing for progress,” Murray said. 

This April marks the country’s 21st annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). 

SAAM 2022 is the first time in three years that PASA’s programming will occur in person at Lafayette. While virtual activities typically garner more participants, Mayer believes there is something special about having these events occur face-to-face. 

“I think it’s really powerful to be in a physical space together,” Mayer said. “Especially when it comes to supporting people on campus and building a community of support, it’s just so much better to be able to do that in person.” 

This year, PASA collaborated with Katy Bednarsky, Lafayette College’s first student advocate and prevention coordinator, to create survivor-focused activities and awareness-raising events. Some of the events for the month included trauma-sensitive yoga, a workshop by the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley on dissecting rape culture and a keynote speaker event with activist, writer, educator, filmmaker and performance artist Ignacio Rivera.

Times, dates and locations for all of the month’s events can be found at linktr.ee/PASALaf.

Murray and Mayer’s goal for the month was to plan diverse events that appealed to a wide range of people. 

“We really wanted to provide a bunch of different ways to engage the student body to make sure that everyone has something that they feel like applies to them and that they can see themselves doing,” Mayer said.

Murray and Mayer hope that by making students aware of the prevalence of sexual assault at Lafayette, they will inspire progress.

“Sexual assault and domestic violence [and] stalking do occur on our campus. That’s a wake-up call for some people because they think, ‘Oh, Lafayette, it’s a small school, it’s a safe campus,’” Murray said. “A lot of people have a different experience than that, and by helping people understand, then they’re able to be active bystanders and engage and step in on situations where there might be a risk of something happening.” 

The co-presidents use the @anti.violence.laf Instagram account as an example of increased awareness being a catalyst for change.

“I think before [the account] came out, people didn’t realize how local of an issue this is and how if you haven’t been personally affected by sexual assault, it’s likely that someone you care about has,” Mayer said. “Students really got motivated and saw the issue on campus, and that helps us gain momentum to create our open letter.”

An open letter to the Lafayette Administration released in January 2021 outlined immediate and long-term solutions to prevent further acts of sexual misconduct and gender-based violence.

“I think the open letter at least provided a way for us to say, ‘These are our goals, long and short term,’ and we can keep them accountable throughout multiple years, even after Annika and I are graduated,” Mayer said.

In the letter, PASA demands a sufficiently staffed Office of Educational Equity. The group calls for the implementation of trauma sensitivity training for Bailey’s Health Center workers, the guarantee that reporting students will not face repercussions and the creation of a supervised space that is open 24/7.

Following the release of the open letter, members of the executive board met with former president Alison Byerly and the Board of Trustees to discuss action items and next steps. They have continued this communication with President Nicole Farmer Hurd.

“The open letter has sort of served as a guiding post for a lot of the goals and initiatives that we’ve put in place,” Murray said.

The co-presidents agree that it will take more than just administrative support to create lasting change.

“Absolutely, the administration needs to care, and there’s always more that they can be doing. On the same side, the students also need to have this collective attitude towards putting a stop to sexual violence,” Mayer said.

To Murray, SAAM 2022 has already been extremely successful.

“I have already seen such inspirational stuff happening, not only from our team and from our membership, but from the people in the community that have shown up already for the events that we’ve had so far, so that’s really exciting and promising,” Murray said.

“PASA is not going away,” they promised. “We’re gonna keep making changes.”

Visit PASA’s Instagram page, @pasa_laf, to stay up to date on SAAM programming.