EVANSTON, Ill. --- April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and Northwestern University is partnering with student groups to raise awareness about sexual violence and to help educate the Northwestern community on how to prevent it.
Northwestern’s Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE) is asking students to get involved in this year’s SAAM programs to help spread the word and prevent sexual misconduct -- an issue that has become a national priority of critical importance.
In April, CARE and other offices at the University will be promoting the mission of educating the community that sexual violence is a major public health, human rights and social justice issue. To help end it, it is essential for everyone in the community to be better informed, from faculty and staff to students and alumni.
Northwestern has already taken major steps in the last year to raise awareness and train the community on what to do when sexual misconduct occurs. Since December, more than 20,000 members of Northwestern’s faculty, staff and graduate and professional students have taken the Preventing Sexual Misconduct and Sex Discrimination online education course.
Strengthening Northwestern’s efforts to protect its community members from sexual misconduct is part of the University’s mission to create a safe, productive and welcoming environment for the entire community. It’s why the University announced its revised policy on sexual misconduct and a new website, as well as an online educational course on these issues last fall.
CARE is asking students and others if they are “looking for opportunities to learn more about sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, healthy sexuality, healthy relationships, gender, how to support a friend and more.”
Events in April include a training session called “Support Starts Here” April 6 on how to support survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking; a “Step Up!” program April 12 on bystander intervention and a Take Back the Night march through campus April 21, in support of survivors of sexual violence.
There is also a “Title IX Process Panel” slated for April with a discussion to help educate the community on what it means to file a Title IX complaint and what the reporting process looks like at Northwestern.
For more detailed information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Northwestern and how to get involved, check out this page for an up-to-date listing of events happening at the University and beyond.
As President Morton Schapiro said in a message to the community, “Northwestern is committed to fostering a learning, working and living environment where all members of our community can thrive, free from sexual misconduct.”
It is essential for everyone in the community to understand their responsibilities in supporting these core values and striving to help prevent all sexual misconduct -- including sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, and dating and domestic violence.
President Barack Obama was the first U.S. chief executive to issue a proclamation declaring Sexual Assault Awareness Month -- starting in 2010.
“Every day, women, men and children across America suffer the pain and trauma of sexual assault,” the president said in the proclamation. “From verbal harassment and intimidation to molestation and rape, this crime occurs far too frequently, goes unreported far too often and leaves long-lasting physical and emotional scars.
“During National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we recommit ourselves not only to lifting the veil of secrecy and shame surrounding sexual violence, but also to raising awareness, expanding support for victims and strengthening our response,” the proclamation read.
The issue has been a huge priority for the administration, as evidenced by the president’s and Vice President Joe Biden’s work on the issue of awareness and prevention.
“As part of their efforts, they launched a public awareness and education campaign last year called ‘It’s On Us.’ The campaign seeks to empower college students -- and all members of campus communities -- not only to respond effectively to sexual assault, but also to prevent it in the first place,” according to a fact sheet issued in 2014 by the Office of the Vice President.
“That is why ‘It’s On Us’ was launched in partnership with student body leadership from nearly 200 colleges and universities across the country, collegiate sports organizations such as the NCAA, and private companies that have strong connections with students at colleges and universities,” the fact sheet said.
Biden also spoke out on this issue at the 88th Academy Awards Feb. 28, urging the star-studded audience members to help “change the culture” on this issue.
“Despite significant progress over the last few years, too many women and men -- on and off college campuses -- are still victims of sexual abuse,” Biden observed. “And tonight I’m asking you to join millions of Americans, including me, President Obama, the thousands of students I’ve met on college campuses, and the artists here tonight to take the pledge -- a pledge that says: I will intervene in situations when consent has not or cannot be given.”
He was followed on stage by pop icon Lady Gaga that night, who gave a moving performance of her Oscar-nominated song, “Til It Happens To You,” written with Diane Warren, for the film “The Hunting Ground.”