Sunday, May 19, 2024

Empowering voices: SAAM programs against sexual assault

Many different organizations tabled in the Warren Ballroom.


By Philo Yunrui Wang

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is here. SUNY Plattsburgh’s month-long series of programs, hosted by the Title IX Office and DEI, began Wednesday, April 3, with the university’s “Teal the Quad.”

In 2000, sexual violence coalitions across the country voted to designate the color teal as the official color of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the teal ribbon was adopted as a symbol of awareness and prevention. In 2006, “Me Too,” a social movement and awareness campaign against sexual abuse and harassment, was initiated by Tarana Burke on social media to empower women through empathy. The movement shed light on the various cultural and societal obstacles individuals face when coming forward to disclose or report sexual violence. 

Today, countless individuals have dedicated themselves to exposing the widespread prevalence of sexual violence and conveying that survivors of sexual violence are not alone and should not feel ashamed.

Amidst “Teal the Quad,” participants were encouraged to wear teal, paint rocks, chalk the campus, and decorate teal paper ornaments. Resource tables were set up, offering on- and off-campus support services, including Planned Parenthood, New York State University Police, Student Health & Counseling Center, Behavioral Health Services North, Alliance, Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Feinberg Library and #HealWithIt.

The event brims with elements of positivity and warmth, encompassing powerful aphorisms, teal ribbons, colorful snacks, dogs named Caamp and Reva and a multitude of individual experiences and testimonies flowing throughout the entire space.

“It’s crucial to convey positivity in this space, to let survivors know that someone is paying attention, standing with them, and empowering them to feel in control of their situation. However, we also recognize that listening is always paramount. When someone shares that they are in a very difficult situation, and we blindly push positivity onto them, they may feel unheard because sexual harassment itself is absolutely not positive; it’s horrendous.” Chris Chamars, coordinator of multicultural initiatives of DEI, said.

The activities are good for those going through something potentially traumatic in their lives by learning that others support their journey. David Duprey, executive director of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center at DEI, acknowledged the challenges of providing support while managing personal emotions.

“I often experience subjective trauma and pain when confronted with their narratives, but what I need to do is believe their statement, be authentic with their statement.” Duprey said.

Sexual assault persists due to attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate rape culture and condone violence against women. The SAAM programs offer a secure platform for survivors to share their stories and advocate for change. Moreover, they unite individuals who not only stand against sexual violence but also actively support efforts to create an environment free from rape culture.

Throughout April, additional SAAM-related events will happen and Hawkins Hall will be illuminated in teal to commemorate the observance. Stay updated by visiting


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