New changes and big events are taking place this year for Simpson College’s Sexual Assault Response Advocates (SARA). They are working with a new outside organization to provide services of support, prevention, and education for Simpson students.
In the past, SARA has worked with Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services, but effective this year, they will be working through Crisis Intervention Services of Oskaloosa.
According to Ellie Olson, SARA’s faculty advisor, this is expected to bring about positive changes to the program.
“They saw a hole that they could fill. We are working with someone who is dedicated to college students,” said Olson. “I am really excited about the new agency because they are helping us provide the best services for our students and are very involved in the most positive ways.”
One of the main changes is a new phone number for students to call. If a student needs to talk to a SARA member about sexual assault, they can call or text the new number, 515-330-6392, and receive immediate support.
Senior Kaitlyn Mathiesen said previously, people weren’t able to text the number for help.
“Now that we have a new agency and a new phone, you’re allowed to text, so we can respond to calls that way, which is nice,” she said.
Lauren Meyers, a sophomore philosophy major involved in SARA, believes that this new system will prove beneficial for students. “Before, the student would have to leave a voicemail and wait for SARA to call them back. It can be really hard to make a phone call for help and it is nerve-wracking to have to wait. Now that someone will be there either talking or texting right away, it will be easier for the person needing support.”
Last Monday, the SARA group held their first event, He Said, She Said, for new students on campus. During the event, outside actors portrayed scenarios of sexual assault before opening the room for discussion.
“The performance displayed an accurate situation of sexual assault and it led to some very thought provoking conversations about what sexual assault is and its relation to our college’s policy,” said Meyers.
Olson said, “Sexual assault is hard to talk about. By doing this, it is our hope to start a conversation and create a campus climate that isn’t tolerant of sexual assault.”
SARA will host another event to raise awareness on Sept 20. During the annual In Her Shoes event, the men of Simpson College will have the opportunity to run in heels to raise awareness to end sexual assault and show support for victims.
“The week leading up to In Her Shoes, we will be setting up tables and having a drive to get the new phone number out there,” said Olson. “Anyone who stops by and has the new number in their phone will be entered into a drawing for gift cards. Anyone who brings us items with the old number will be entered again.”
SARA members are excited to continue offering education and support for Simpson students this year. Anyone who wants to learn more about SARA’s organization or how to become an advocate can contact Ellie Olson or SARA’s president Jordan Kenkel.
Kenkel believes educating others about sexual assault awareness should never stop.
“We don’t want them [students] to get assaulted, we don’t want them to become perpetrators because they lack the knowledge,” he said. “So just getting our information out there in any way we can is good.”
“It is important for students to know that they can call SARA,” she said. “We are confidential and here to talk and help. We want to help people realize that sexual assault can happen to anyone. It doesn’t define you and it is okay to share your experience.”