SARA works to raise sexual assault awareness

by Amanda YanchuryStaff Writer

Sexual assault and violence are serious, dangerous problems on many college campuses. Simpson College’s student- and staff-run organization, Sexual Assault Response Advocates, is working to eradicate this issue on the college’s campus by creating awareness.

According to Director of Counseling Ellie Olson, who also serves as the SARA adviser, the mission of SARA is two-fold.

“We see ourselves with two roles,” Olson said. “First, the reason that I hope people know about — to be advocates for people who are struggling with assault. We have a hotline that is open to anyone; those who have questions about assault, want information about campus policies, or to get help for themselves or others who have been affected.”

The second purpose that SARA has is to create awareness of sexual assault on campus. Senior SARA member Missy Deer, said that creating awareness is important for students on campus.

“Creating awareness of sexual assault brings this difficult topic to the surface, and makes it easier to talk about,” Deer said. “By raising awareness, people won’t be afraid to call the hotline if they have a problem, whereas they may not have before.”

According to Olson, SARA is made up of 15 students and staff who are specially trained in responding to victims of sexual assault. Each SARA is trained to answer the hotline, which is open 24 hours a day when classes are in session. The organization was formed in the fall of 2007, with the first members being trained in the spring of 2008.

Junior member Kelsey Johnston said that education about the problem of sexual assault is a key part in eradicating it.

“Education about the issue helps people understand that it happens at college campuses,” Johnston said. “They need to know what an assault is; how it’s defined.”

Olson says that awareness is especially important because there is misunderstanding on what sexual assault entails.

“Our goal is to improve the campus climate and make students aware of how prevalent it is,” Olson said. “There is more tolerance of behaviors that would be labeled assault. People are not fully educated about what it means to be assaulted, how common it is and what the effects are.”

Deer said she hopes that SARA will be a resource for those who want to become educated or need assistance in the wake of such an assault.

“We are all in it for a common purpose,” Deer said. “We all have the same drive. It’s important for the campus to rally behind this organization because there are people that need this help. We can help a person and get them the tools they need.”

Johnston agrees, saying that SARA gives students an outlet to talk about sexual assaults.

“We want to create a safe space on campus, for people to share their past and talk openly about their experiences and concerns,” Johnston said. “If we don’t talk about (sexual assault), nothing is ever going to change.”

Olson says that students should watch for an upcoming event on campus. The sole purpose of this event will be to create awareness around the issue of sexual assault and violence, and how prevalent it is in our society.

The hotline can be reached via student line at (515) 962-2899.