There are few clubs as active and important on our campus as Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA). Founded in 2011as a WGS 120 change-making project, this club seeks to educate students on the dangers of sexual predators on campus, be it a friend or stranger. They promote consent, offer condoms and dental dams to promote safe sex, and give students a safe space to discuss harassment and abuse, as well as ways to protect others from sexual assault. I sat down with this year’s Co-Presidents, Kristina Chamberlin ’17 and Kira Goodwin ’19, to talk about their influences and goals for the future of SASA.
What led you guys to get involved with SASA?
Kristina Chamberlin: I became a member of SASA as a sophomore. I really wanted to get involved in an active feminist club that I knew that was active in helping the community and campus. At the time, Sarah Connolly was president, and she was so involved with the 14 Days [to End Sexual Violence] and Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I was inspired by the work they were doing. I wanted to get involved because I felt they were doing more to help the community than other groups on campus were to raise awareness about sexual assault and have events for people to learn about what consent is and what they can do to affect change.
Kira Goodwin: In high school, for my senior capstone, I decided I wanted to write a novel (author’s note: how cool is that?) and I wrote about sexual assault and I had to do a lot of research for it so that kind of turned me towards all the issues concerning sexual assault. I decided after doing that research that it’s something I wanted to get more involved with in college, so when I heard of SASA, I joined my freshman year and really enjoyed being a part of it.
Kristina Chamberlin ’17 (left) at the Servo Slut Walk 2014
How do you see sexual assault as an issue on our campus?
KG: I personally haven’t heard a lot about it from the people I see every day and I haven’t seen a lot more than the campus safety notifications we get, but I think because we are a college campus, and one with Greek Life especially, that it is a present issue, even if we aren’t seeing or hearing about it as much.
KC: It’s a problem because I feel like it’s something that is being covered up. People don’t really like to talk about the issue—Gettysburg included—because it’s really sensitive and awkward to bring up in conversation. Specifically for Gettysburg, the biggest need for sexual assault awareness is to reassess the college social life that encourages people to go out and party a lot. There’s such a pressure to be a part of the social life but there’s less information out there about how to prevent sexual assault when you add alcohol and partying into the mix. While we’re getting more resources, I feel like students don’t really know what to do when it happens to themselves or a friend. I feel like having SASA on campus teaches people how to intervene and what consent means when you’re in a new relationship or something like that. Having people equipped with that knowledge is important so they can avoid either committing or being victims of sexual and relationship violence.
If you could change one thing on our campus to make it safer for all students, what would you change?
KG: I think a big part of it is education and I know that during first year orientation you get a little bit of background information, and this year they changed and did a more intensive sexual assault prevention program that was gender targeted and definitely progress, but there are also upperclassmen who still have the old information.
KC: Definitely the most important thing is transparency. There’s still not enough education on what is consent, if you’re asking for consent, if is it explicit. Learning how to talk to other people about these issues is also important, like describing how to be an effective bystander rather than just telling people to do it. If we give people the tools to help, then maybe they’d be able to pay attention to more of the issues on campus and make a difference in the number of sexual assaults.
KG: I definitely agree with that, encouraging people to not just be a bystander, that it’s a deeper issue than something we can resolve on college campuses, because it comes from what is ingrained in people’s heads when they are children. By making it noticeable and making people aware of the issue, we can start to see a change in the system.
Kira Goodwin ’19 at Get Acquainted Day 2015
What are your goals for the 14 Days to End Sexual Violence?
KC: The main goal of the 14 Days is to raise awareness of the issue in a really salient way. Having an event every day for fourteen days is really pushing people to pay attention and to give time and effort toward these issues. If we’re in CUB every day and we’re showing movies and bring speakers to campus, we’re offering something for everyone to get involved. We’re trying to find ways to reach everyone in impactful ways, from fundraisers to speakers. If the 14 Days can educate even one person and prevent one sexual assault, we’ve done our job. We’ve made a difference on campus.
KG: We definitely want to raise awareness and have people know about SASA and know about sexual assault, and I think a more specific goal is to get people more involved in SASA, because there are a lot of people who are interested but not a lot who are actively involved, and if we don’t have active involvement, then SASA might not exist next year.
How else can students get involved beyond becoming involved with SASA?
KC: The WGS 120 department offers a really good opportunity to look at issues behind gender, sexuality, and assault on campus. I mean, SASA came from a WGS 120 project, so students should take advantage of the classes that specifically cater toward injustices on campus.
KG: There are other programs on campus, like Green Dot, but in general, if you see people perpetrating ideas of assault, you should comment on people’s flippancy toward sexual assault, and you shouldn’t be a bystander, because if someone is going to rape someone else, it’s harder to change the mindset than to get involved and ask the person what they’re doing and to give the other person a way to break away because it shouldn’t.