Nene Maruta and Marissa Castillo, students at the U serving as Peer Health Educators for the U's Center for Student Wellness and members of the Violence Prevention Team planning events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), which is the month of April. (Courtesy of Marissa Castillo )

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and University of Utah students can plan to engage with SAAM in several different ways thanks to initiatives planned by the U’s SAAM Committee.

Further information and a full list of events during SAAM is posted on the Center for Student Wellness website.

Nene Maruta, a junior at the U studying nursing, is also a peer health educator for the Center for Student Wellness and currently serves on the Violence Prevention Team. While her work on the team largely involves presenting bystander intervention trainings to various groups on campus, Maruta said that this past month, she was invited to co-lead SAAM for the U.

Every Monday in April, the SAAM committee will be doing a mini-university Instagram takeover with posts focused on campus resources pertaining to sexual assault. “Throughout the week, we will cover different topics like consent, assault and survivor stories on the Center for Student Wellness Instagram page,” Maruta said.

Teal boxes that will be displayed on Tuesday, April 2 at the Marriott Library Plaza during the SAAM “Teal Space” event to promote awareness about sexual assault. (Courtesy of Marissa Castillo)

Students can head to the Marriott Library Plaza on Tuesday, April 2 for “Teal Space,” where a large teal box will be displayed that students can take a picture with and promote on their own personal social media pages. “Students can come talk to other students who are knowledgeable about sexual assault,” Maruta said. “We will also have a table on the Library Plaza and the Union patio where students may pledge to take a stand against sexual assault with It’s On Us and receive a sticker that they can wear and promote with the hashtag #UofUSAAM.”

Ribbon and paper will be available for people to tie sayings, stories and words of solidarity.

“We are inviting students to start a conversation and continue that conversation, as the problem of sexual assault is more prevalent than we as a society like to admit,” Maruta said. “I am incredibly invested in the topic of sexual assault because I myself am a two-time sexual assault victim survivor. I know the detrimental toll it can take on the victim physically, emotionally and academically.”

Maruta added, “I have also realized the incident of sexual assault not only harms the victim, but the people surrounding them as well. Of course, I was the one who went through the trauma, but it hurts me to know that my experience extended through to the people I love most.”

“Promoting SAAM is my way of supporting survivors and educating the campus community on resources that can be used to help sexual assault victims,” said Marissa Castillo, a junior at the U studying health promotion and education.

Castillo is a peer health educator working on the Violence Prevention Team along with Maruta. “As a co-chair of the SAAM committee, I am passionate about spreading awareness of different forms of sexual violence that can happen, especially [in] our campus community,” Castillo said, “I have seen friends go through sexual assault and it was hard not knowing the best way to support them.”

As a student, Maruta knows for a fact that the majority of students “do not know their resources for incidents like these on campus or to what extent Title IX covers.”

“I also know that the definition of consent seems to be hazy among individuals and that needs to change. I am here as a peer resource and teacher to hopefully make a difference on campus.”

U President Ruth Watkins, in a statement released in response to the sexual assault reported on Tuesday, March 26 wrote, “We have invested heavily in safety measures over the past several years, including installing additional lighting, security cameras, building security, increasing resources for campus police, and investing in additional staff in the Victim-Survivor Advocates Office, the Office of the Dean of Students, and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.”

Finally, a note from Center for Student Wellness Victim-Survivor Advocates:

“We are here for U. Remember that any student, faculty or staff member who has experienced sexual violence can meet with an advocate for support and assistance. If you would like to learn more about our Victim-Survivor Advocacy resources or make an appointment to meet with an advocate, call 801.581.7776 or email advocate@sa.utah.edu. We stand in love and solidarity with survivors of sexual violence.”

a.loret@dailyutahchronicle.com

@amy_loret

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