While men are usually seen as the perpetrators in sexual assault crimes, this year the people at the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center hope to make them part of the solution, said LSA senior Lauren Sogor, a SAPAC volunteer.
While it has typically focused on helping women who have been victims of sexual assault, Johanna Soet, the new director of SAPAC hopes to expand the organization by implementing new services geared toward men.
SAPAC’s men’s activism program, created last semester to encourage advocacy and education, informs male college students about how they can help in preventing sexual assault.
This semester the program will add more volunteers and also target fraternities.
So far, SAPAC has recruited about seven male volunteers, who run specialized workshops for men on sexual assault issues.
Rackham student Gabe Javier is a volunteer for the activism program and advocates the value of the program.
“It’s important to encourage men to talk about the issues of violence against women,” Javier said. “Part of it is that men and, myself included, are afforded privileges in society, and men should use those privileges to talk to other men about ending violence against women.”
The program has organized a workshop for PULSE, a student organization dedicated to encouraging health and wellness of students in residence halls and in fraternities.
But Soet is not only broadening SAPAC’s focus to men. The new director also hopes to educate international students about sexual assault awareness and prevention.
Project director Samara Wickliffe said the project has a “unique focus providing support services to international students and their partners.”
SAPAC has created sexual violence materials in multiple languages and hosted a seminar with Sujata Warrior, a member of the nonprofit organization Manavi Inc., which is dedicated to address the needs of South Asian survivors of sexual violence.
Wickliffe said there is very little information geared toward helping international students overcome the obstacles they face.
“Beyond the language challenges for some students, fear of community shame, self-blame, and concern for confidentiality are just a few factors involved in making a decision to report sexual violence,” Wickliffe said.
The new programs were created after SAPAC’s student volunteers fought a battle with the University to keep the 24-hour crisis hotline as an on-campus feature. The University had proposed that the Washtenaw’s sexual assault and domestic violence service provider could handle the crisis line on its own. But a firestorm was ignited because students felt an on-campus crisis line was necessary in helping sexual assault survivors feel comfortable enough to make the call.
Because of resistance from students, SAPAC maintained its crisis line and the University appointed two counselors to administer the hotline, moving them from the SAPAC office on North University Avenue to the Counseling and Psychological Services office in the Michigan Union.
Although some believed relocating the counselors to the Union would not afford students enough privacy, Soet reiterated that the SAPAC office is still a “safe space” for survivors, friends and family to receive help.
Soet, the new director of SAPAC, replaced Kelly Cichy after she resigned to pursue high school teaching.
Soet volunteered at SAPAC from 1988 to 1989 and helped establish a summer program to educate the freshman class about sexual violence and alcohol and drug abuse.