By Samantha Remington

Photo of W Mountain, Taylor Lawn and several yellow trees on a fall day.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a yearly campaign to bring awareness about sexual violence and start a conversation among people to stop acts of sexual assault. Statistics on show that, “among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”

Western students created the Sexual Violence Student Advisory Committee (SVSAC), in order to plan multiple events throughout the month to bring awareness on campus.

These events include a “My Story” board placed in the Western University Center, a table to pick up “Not Your Slut” shirts, a Slut Walk and open mic, STI testing, pledge signing, and sex trivia from 6pm to 8pm on April 30th at MadJacks dining area.

Shelby Schuppe, Title IX & Student Conduct Coordinator, supports and advises students of the committee. Resident Directors, Jodi Payne and McKenzie Mathewson also oversee SVSAC. Schuppe is responsible for overseeing all Title IX issues and “addressing any patterns or systemic problems that arise during the review of such complaints” as stated on the Western website.

She explained the importance of SAAM and how the SVSAC helped the issues surrounding this month. Schuppe states the events held this month are to “open up a conversation about sexual violence.” These events can also help “normalize healthy behavior and relationships.”

According to sexual violence statistics in 2017, Western’s percentage for sexual assault is higher than the national average amongst college campuses.

For example, “sexual touching without their consent is 13.3,” while national is 10.3. “Sexual penetration attempt without their consent is 7.1,” and the national average is 4.0. Actual sexual penetration, sexual abuse in a relationship, stalking, and emotional/physical abuse or assault happened more at Western than the national college average. This is based off the average for males and females combined.

On Friday, April 9, the SVSAC hosted a Slut Walk and open mic. The purpose of the walk was to stop rape culture among college campuses and break down stereotypes such as degrading words like slut, whore, etc. The walk started in front of the Escalante complex where Gissely Rodriguez, a member of SVSAC, invited the crowd to a dance party and offered body paint. About 70 individuals showed up for the Slut Walk.

Multiple people wore the “Not Your Slut” t-shirts that were given out by the committee a few days prior. The crowd walked around campus then stopped at the Taylor Lawn for the open mic.

Precious Allen, another member of SVSAC, kicked off the open mic by introducing Schuppe and Jessica Wurtz, assistant director of Project Hope in Gunnison. Wurtz was there to offer support to those who might have needed it. Survivors took turns sharing their stories and encouraging others of their strength.

The Slut Walk was sponsored by Escalante Complex Committee and SVSAC. The SVSAC plans to open up to all students who may want to join next fall.