Campus group supports students during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and beyond
Central Michigan University’s Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates aims to raise awareness and inspire action during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To do that, the group continues to host a series of events throughout the month of April on campus and virtually.
SAPA is a survivor-centered and trauma-informed, para-professional student organization on campus under the department of Sexual Aggression Services. Megan Varner, director of CMU Sexual Aggression Services, stresses the importance of bringing awareness to the issue of sexual assault to students on campus as well as the community.
“College students statistically are some of the most impacted by sexual assault. If you look at the age range of a typical college student,18 to 24-years-old, it’s a high-risk time,” said Varner. “It’s important because there are students here being impacted in that way.”
Ayanna Meadows, a CMU senior affiliated with the organization, agrees that college campuses can be strongly impacted by both sexual assault and harassment. “My hope is that by attending some of SAPA’s events this April, students can see firsthand what to look out for in a college setting and how to help step in for others in harmful situations,” she said.
Making a difference in April
SAPA uses Sexual Assault Awareness Month as a time to reach crowds on a variety of levels. One of Varner’s favorite events is Solidarity, which is held during both Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April and Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
“Solidarity gives students the chance to speak out by sharing their stories and how they have been impacted,” said Varner. “It’s a place where everyone can stand in solidarity and be together as one. It’s amazing to see a large crowd supporting each other. It is a powerful moment.”
SAPA’s goal for this month is to encourage people to get involved and take action. “I just want people to begin raising awareness to this issue and start changing the conversation,” said Varner.
Meadows is grateful for the support on campus and for all of the organizations that help put on the events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “This month is extremely heartwarming when we see so many people caring and getting involved,” she said.
“It takes a lot to begin having conversations about sexual assault because it’s a difficult topic that can be triggering for some,” said Meadows. “There’s also a lot of stigmatisms around it, so emphasizing the importance that CMU offers something like this shows our school is supportive and willing to be involved.”
Are you in need of services?
SAPA offers a variety of different confidential services to students including a 24/7 crisis and support phone line and chat service for students who prefer to text. They also offer safety planning to prepare students for dangerous situations and recommend those who are struggling to seek help at the Counseling Center.
With services available to CMU students, faculty, staff and the community, if you or someone you know is struggling, visit cmich.edu for more information.