Op-Eds Opinion

Simeoli: Join Springfield College Office of Title IX in participating in Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Mary F. Simeoli, Esq., Springfield College Title IX Coordinator

According to the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 10% of college students will experience sexual violence during undergraduate and graduate experience. Sexual assault is an issue that affects our local and global community, affecting persons of all colors, races, religions, identities, genders, and at every socioeconomic status. To stop sexual violence is going to take not only awareness, but intentional action by all of us. It takes faculty and staff committing to their role as “responsible employees,” it takes students using their voices to establish the culture they want to be a part of, and it takes our Title IX team continuing to educate our community by facilitating programming and training.

In an effort help combat sexual violence and in working to create a culture of consent, the Springfield College Office of Title IX has worked in collaboration with clubs, organizations, and departments from across the College to host a series of events throughout the month of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We are thrilled to have hosted a wide-range of programs that attempted to tackle the complex issue of sexual violence from different lenses and through different voices. Programming ranged from the White Ribbon Campaign, a national pledge to get men involved in ending violence against women and a talk on how toxic masculinity impacts sexual violence with the Men of Excellence to “Booging Down to Title IX Town” a 70’s themed Zumba class hosted by YMCA Assistant Director and Title IX Investigator, Matt Braddak, to honor the decade that gave us Title IX! We’re hosted floor programs in collaboration with Residence Life staff, a “Strike Out Sexual Assault” with the SC Softball Team, and even a Myth Buster Event with the Learning Commons which took place alongside our month-long display of titles that have sexual assault as a theme. You also may have noticed a flyer we put together with the College’s GSA about how sexual violence impacts the LGBTQ+ community that has been displayed in every residence hall on campus!

Our last event of the semester is coming up on April 24th, and I hope it’s one that you’ll all join me in participating in. Denim Day is an international campaign sponsored by the non-profit, Peace Over Violence, in opposition to rape and all forms of sexual violence. The story of Denim Day began in Italy in 1992 when an 18 year-old woman was raped by her 45 year-old driving instructor. She reported the rape and the perpetrator was arrested and prosecuted. After being sent to prison, the man filed an appeal claiming the two had engaged in consensual sex. A statement from the Court stated that because the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped him remove them, and by removing her jeans… she consented. The “jeans alibi” devastated women of the Italian Parliament, who together launched a protest by wearing jeans and gathering on the steps of the Supreme Court. The first Denim Day in the United States took place in 1999 in L.A.  

Since then, men and women across the country and around the world have celebrated Denim Day on the last Wednesday in April. We ask that you join-in by wearing jeans and visiting our table in the Flynn Campus Union between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to get involved, learn more, and use your voice.

While this month gives us a wonderful opportunity to talk about our role in ending sexual violence, this is a conversation that began long before April started and will keep going long after. Springfield College is committed to doing our part all year round. Some of you may have seen me (and some of you may have avoided me) tabling in the Union or Learning Commons or Wellness Center – handing out consent Valentines, sharing how “boos” can affect consent before Halloween, or talking about the healthy relationships we’re thankful for before Thanksgiving break. You may have seen or attended one of our monthly trainings which ranged in topics from how to support trans and gender non-conforming students to how to file a Title IX report, or met Sue Nowlan and I as we trained your club, leadership, or athletic team.

In addition to year-round programming and activities, we are also proud to be the first institution in the area to create a partnership with the YWCA of Western Massachusetts. The YWCA provides around-the-clock resources for students, faculty, and staff. The licensed counselors and social workers at the YWCA provide 24-hour support through escort services, safety planning, and counseling through its hotline. You can reach the YWCA at any time day or night by calling (413) 733-7100.

As we close out the month, I hope you’ll join me, not only in attending our upcoming events but join me in the fight against sexual violence. Join me by asking questions, by learning more. Join me by referring your friends to the programs and services available to them. Join me by setting expectations, by calling our poor behaviors, and by helping one another. Join me in using your voice to create change.

Photo courtesy Mary Simeoli

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