USM SAPA to Host Events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The University of Southern Mississippi’s SAPA (Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors) aims to spread awareness and prevent sexual assault or harassment. Because April is sexual assault awareness month, they are planning lots of amazing events that deserve attention! SAPA President Bella Brocato was kind and helpful, sharing all of the necessary information with me so I could write an article detailing their plans.

Starting as early as April 1st, SAPA is going to be Launching Sexual Assault Awareness Month by working with several other organizations to spread information on how to best prevent sexual assault in our spaces as students. This is going to take place as a virtual campaign.

Also beginning on April 1st, SAPA is hosting an in-person AND virtual gallery titled “What Were You Wearing?” As the name suggests, this event will consist of a gallery that displays survivor’s clothes and descriptions of what they were wearing when they were assaulted – the purpose of this being to destroy the stigma around sexual assault and, specifically, lessen victim-blaming. Bella clarified that they are teaming up with “the Title IX Office, the Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention, the Committee on Services and Resources for Women (CSRW), and SISU (Step In to Step Up; a Res Life initiative).” The display is going to be set up in the R.C. Cook Union, where bystanders can walk through and view it during the whole month of April. The online version will consist of some anonymous submissions, as well, in case the survivor would rather remain anonymous!

The next event, going from April 5th to April 7th, has been named “The Bandana Project”. Best said by President Bella Brocato, this event is “an art-advocacy event bringing awareness to the disproportionate amount of sexual violence Hispanic migrant women working in the American farm working industry face in the workplace” and will allow students and faculty to design solid white bandanas with words of support for survivors and a call to end this kind of assault in the workplace. If the participant wishes, they can take a photo wearing the bandana they made (or any bandana) and post it on Instagram while tagging @usm.sapa so that they can be featured on the page!

On April 6th at 6:30 pm, SAPA is sponsoring an event that is co-hosted by the USM Honors Forum: Mónica Ramírez University Forum. At this event, guest speaker Mónica Ramírez, who is a world-renowned activist and originally founded the Bandana Project in 2007, will speak. The link to learn more is here: https://www.usm.edu/honors/forum-schedule.php

From April 12th to April 14th, SAPA is hosting “Prints for Prevention” – a virtual campaign that allows participants to stamp their social media in order to show their support against sexual violence. As Bella informed me, this event was actually the first that SAPA hosted on campus, and it consisted of participants stepping forward and physically placing a teal fingerprint on a canvas to show their support. Of course, adjustments have been made because of COVID-19, but participants can still publicly declare their dedication to preventing sexual assault!

From April 15th to April 16th, SAPA is hosting an event called “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes”. This event is in collaboration with the Interfraternity Council (IFC) Executive Board and the Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention. The purpose of this event is to show how cisgender men can use their societal power to help others and decrease oppression and violence, especially against women. First, the event begins with a virtual webinar, then participants are encouraged to submit a video (of no more than seven people who are outside and wearing masks) walking and wearing teal to show their support. At the same time, there will be a table in the R.C. Cook Union in front of the “What Were You Wearing?” Gallery to raise money for the Shafer Center.

On April 21st at 6 pm, SAPA will be hosting a forum discussing toxic masculinity. The main goals of this forum are for students to get together and discuss exactly what toxic masculinity looks like and how it affects sexual violence in and of itself. Importantly, how to best prevent this issue will also be discussed.

Finally, on April 28th, to close out sexual assault awareness month, SAPA will be hosting an event called “Denim Day”, which has a bit of history behind it. Denim Day began following a ruling of the Italian Supreme Court, which dismissed a rape conviction because the justices implied that, since the survivor was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped the perpetrator remove them and, therefore, there must have been consent. This is an incredibly flawed ruling, and the women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to work the next day in solidarity. As a result, Peace Over Violence implemented International Denim Day. This has since become an international movement and is the longest-running sexual assault prevention campaign in history. Commemorating the tradition, SAPA encourages anyone to participate in wearing jeans on April 28th as “a visual means of protest around the misconceptions that surround sexual violence” (Bella Brocato). Similar to the Bandana Project, participants are encouraged to post a photo of them wearing jeans on Instagram and tagging @usm.sapa to be featured on the page and spread awareness.

Once again, I would like to thank Bella Brocato for sharing all of this information with me, and I, of course, commemorate them for all of the hard work they do.

Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors has a powerful mission and consistently continues to do incredible work around the University of Southern Mississippi’s campus, and they are only growing – both in size and in capability. I highly encourage everyone, especially students, to consider participating in these events and doing all that we can to support SAPA and their mission!

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Written by Kelli Kirkland

Kelli Kirkland is originally from Slidell, Louisiana and lives part time on the Southern Miss college campus. She has a passion for writing and has two books currently available on Amazon!

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