SGA initiatives for Sexual Assault Awareness Month


Olivia Miller

Erica Victoria, CARE team outreach coordinator, and Elliot Ruggles, sexual violence and education coordinator, lead “How to Fumble Toward Repair: A Transformative Justice Workshop” in the Living Well Studio April 12.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and SGA is engaging in new initiatives alongside administration to not only bring awareness to sexual assault but also to focus on the theme of sexual liberation for survivors, said SGA President Maddie Henson, a senior.

College campuses in the U.S. recorded that anywhere from 14%-32% of students have experienced violent sexual contact at least once on campus, according to Helping Survivors, an outreach organization dedicated to helping survivors of sexual violence. 

Elliot Ruggles, sexual violence prevention and education coordinator, said UVM is taking on a new drink cover initiative this year to bring more awareness to sexual violence that is especially prevalent on college campuses. 

“One of the initiatives that we decided to move forward with is [with] a company that creates different products so you can keep your drinks safer,” Ruggles said.

UVM is partnering with a company called NightCapIt for this initiative, Ruggles said. 

“NightCapIt creates portable tools to cover your drinks that come in the form of scrunchies and keychains,” Ruggles said. 

Another SGA initiative during SAAM is looking into whether UVM Medical Center and Student Health Services have rape kits available which could be made free for students, Henson said. 

Rape kits are expensive and often not covered by insurance, so by providing them to students for free, SGA hopes to reduce a significant amount of stress for survivors, Henson said.

A new theme with SAAM this year is not just awareness like in past years, but also the idea that people can learn to love and feel comfortable in their own bodies again after a traumatic event, Ruggles said. 

“I think a lot of survivors are worried that they’re never going to be able to experience a fulfilling, satisfying life, and that’s not true,” they said. “People can definitely heal through experience.”

Henson agreed that acknowledging survivors’ healing journeys is just as important as bringing awareness to the cause at a base level. 

“The theme for this month is sexual liberation and learning to love your body after a traumatic event,” Henson said. “If we can acknowledge [survivors] and hold them as a community, that is paramount.”

UVM staff also acknowledge that bringing awareness to sexual violence is something that should happen every day, but that having a month dedicated to giving voice to survivors is an important tool, Ruggles said. 

Erica Caloiero, vice provost for student affairs, stated in an April 14 email that feedback from the UVM community is essential and that the perspectives of survivors help focus efforts to end sexual violence.

“This is work that will, unfortunately, never be finished,” Caloiero stated. “Our collective efforts need constant attention and reevaluation in order to be as effective as possible in helping to make UVM be and feel like an ever-safer place.”