This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Quinnipiac student affairs intern, Abby Cook. We spoke about the changes QU is making in regards to sexual assault awareness and how Abby is making a difference as an intern on campus.
Name: Abigail Cook
Hometown: Dunbarton, New Hampshire
How did you get involved with interning for QU student affairs?
“Last summer, I interned with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and it spurred my passion for advocacy in this type of field. I came back to QU really with the hope of bringing more awareness to this campus. I reached out to our Title IX coordinator and she forwarded me to Courtney McKenna. McKenna had an idea for a sexual assault awareness month (SAAM)… I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to do but she had this project in mind because [McKenna] is a case manager for Title IX.”
What has your experience been like so far as an intern for a sexual assault awareness campaign?
“I met with Courtney and established my internship and roles before our winter break. So already over winter break, Courtney and I were brainstorming ideas [for SAAM]. We started to target specific pockets of students through organizations that have a presence on campus. We reached through department heads to notify different majors. So far, we’ve held a few meetings with a fairly large committee of professors, advocates, faculty, public safety, Greek life and athletics.
One of my early jobs was to put together a cheat sheet on ‘How to Make an Event for a Sexual Assault Month’ and blast send it to [all organizations] we could possibly think of. My role has been meeting with organizations, going to executive boards and presenting and helping departments come up with [sexual assault awareness] projects for their students. Our role as the coordinators [of SAAM] is to tie all of the events together into a calendar.”
What types of events could QU students potentially see during SAAM?
· Alpha Chi Omega Walk A Mile in Her Shoes—April 10
· Sigma Gamma Rho Sexual Assault Awareness basketball tournament—April 16
· WISH’s Take Back the Night—April 19
· TAKE Self Defense class—April 23
“A lot of the SAAM events haven’t been planned yet because we’re waiting to see what [the other organizations] are doing. But we are bringing in the Women and Families Center of Connecticut to host bystander awareness talks, tabling and the Clothesline Project, a passive event for survivor awareness… We also will have some events targeted at men and how men can combat rape.
One of our goals for all events throughout SAAM is to promote Quinnipiac’s resources in the case of a sexual assault because a lot of people don’t know about Title IX; [students] don’t know who to call and they don’t know that [associate dean of student affairs] Seann Gallagher’s number is open to them.”
Why should a student who isn’t necessarily interested in this issue attend a SAAM event?
“Because [sexual assault] could happen to them. And it could happen to their best friend, their family members, their roommate. I would actually say that they should be interested in this. The biggest thing is, you don’t go sailing without a life vest. You don’t anticipate that your ship is going to sink but if it does, you want to have all of the resources available just in case. I would say that it’s to the benefit of everyone to be aware of QU’s resources, in case they need to use them or in case they need to give that information to a friend. Especially because we have a very good relationship with New Haven night entertainment, which is great, but Quinnipiac has resources if something happens to you while you’re not on campus.”
How much of a difference do you think SAAM could make in the QU student body?
“Our goal is to get as many people aware of the resources Quinnipiac has in the hopes that people will report, because the largest statistic in sexual assault cases is non-reporting; we can’t measure what we don’t have. My hope is that yes, people will report, but a large part of this too is that people will prevent… not just helping people be safer in their own situations, but also helping people know how to talk to others about things other people shouldn’t be doing.”
Any last comments about SAAM you’d want others to know?
“I would tell people that there are resources for them and no matter what the situation is, it’s important and they are valued. There is no chance that you’re going to reach out for a resource and they’ll turn you down. You have so many options once you’re within those resources; just because you report, it doesn’t mean you have to file a police claim. You can report just to get mental health support.”
Students like Abby Cook are paving the road for change at Quinnipiac. Sexual Assault Awareness Month will take place in April— stay tuned for a future post featuring a list of the SAAM events!