SAASHA members reflect on campus culture

Photo from SAASHA open mic event in May 2022. Photo provided by MJ Corum.

The Student Alliance Against Sexual Harassment and Assault (SAASHA) is a student organization dedicated to ending sexual violence. As one of LUCC’s standing committees, SAASHA works to educate students about sexual misconduct and to support and advocate for survivors of sexual violence. Their events are stigma-free and for the purpose of educating about safe sex and consent, empowering students to make wise decisions regarding their sexual health and promote an open-minded culture of sexual wellness at Lawrence. 

Junior MJ Corum is a SAASHA co-chair and emphasized the importance of building a strong, supportive community for survivors. They explained that SAASHA allows survivors to share their experiences in a safe space, which promotes collective healing and wellness. 

“Being in SAASHA helps you realize how many other people you share experiences with,” they said. 

The new SAASHA co-chair, junior Chloe Forero asserted that SAASHA is inclusive to everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, class or political identification. Although supporting survivors of sexual violence is one of SAASHA’s main goals, non-survivors are highly encouraged to participate in advocacy, education and community-building. 

“I am proud of the fact that I, along with my fellow board members, are actively fostering a culture on campus that allows victims of abuse and assault to feel welcome, seen and heard,” said Forero. “SAASHA has provided countless opportunities for the student body to not only have fun, but also participate in much-needed discourse on subjects that are hard to navigate.” 

Event planner and junior Annika Dunkel got involved in SAASHA because she was frustrated with society’s inability to support survivors and wanted to educate herself on Lawrence’s Title IX policies. They take pride in how SAASHA’s outreach has promoted discourse in the Lawrence community, which in turn drives social change. 

“Ultimately I am proud that we have been able to start conversations that help transform the current discourse on sexual harassment and assault,” said Dunkel. 

Although preventing sexual harassment and assault is a central goal for SAASHA, it is equally invested in creating a judgment-free space where students can learn more about practicing safe sex. They build a culture of open communication and comprehensive sex education, which promotes clear consent and bodily autonomy. From stocking boxes of free contraceptives in residence halls to hosting sexual health workshops, SAASHA maintains an open, inclusive attitude towards sexuality and aims to provide a fun, sex-positive campus environment. 

The team has organized multiple events for the week of Valentine’s Day centered around relationships and sexual wellness. They will feature a “green flag” board near Andrew Commons, where students can share positive attributes of healthy relationships. They will also hold prize raffles and workshops on relationship-related topics such as boundaries, consent and intimacy, culminating in a collaboration with Kappa Kappa Gamma and Harbor House. 

SAASHA is also planning a restorative justice workshop that focuses on harm reduction. Although Corum emphasized that SAASHA’s number one priority is always survivor safety, they also believe that rehabilitating education programs can reduce repeat offenses and promote healing for all. 

There will also be a semi-formal banquet in Warch Campus Center later this term to celebrate SAASHA members’ contributions to the community. Finally, SAASHA is collaborating with the LUCC Sustainability Committee, LUCC Student Welfare Committee, and LU Environmental Organization to provide a variety of free, sustainable menstruation products for students. 

Dunkel also coordinates Survivor Saturdays, a series of weekly events to support sexual assault survivors. Although you do not have to be a survivor to participate, the events often focus on mindfulness, self-care, emotional catharsis and other aspects of wellness that are beneficial to people recovering from trauma. 

This term’s Survivor Saturday activities include pottery, painting, and a special celebration in the Viking Room. They have also planned several group trips such as bowling, boba tea, visiting a cat café, and axe throwing. SAASHA will cover all participation fees and provide buses for all off-campus events. 

Survivor Saturday events are hosted and moderated by SAASHA members rather than faculty or Title IX staff, so survivors can find support in an informal, peer-led space. Sophomore Eliza Peetz expressed that the events focus on survivor well-being rather than trauma itself. 

Photo from SAASHA open mic event in May 2022. Photo provided by MJ Corum.

“It’s a space for being with people who’ve been through similar experiences as you without having to dig up that trauma again and relive it,” said Peetz. 

When Corum admitted that some of the everyday work in SAASHA can be monotonous, the board often turns these tasks into social activities with snacks and music. They also find motivation in the community turnout at SAASHA events. 

“Going to the final event after putting in weeks or months of work to make it happen and seeing 50 people be so happy and safe is so satisfying and rewarding that it almost doesn’t feel like work,” said Corum. 

Dunkel loves how the events provide fun while also serving a meaningful purpose to the community. 

“These events help foster a community that allows us to come together to support others, as well as listen to how we can better offer that support,” she said. 

Secretary and sophomore Shelby Stoddard, was also overjoyed by the success of last term’s events, especially SAASHA’s Halloween party. She finds SAASHA uniquely gratifying because it is a student-led community that uplifts student voices. 

Social media manager and senior Matvei Mozhaev also praised SAASHA’s positive atmosphere and culture as a student organization. 

“Every meeting is amazingly comfortable and welcoming, and everyone is supportive of everyone,” he said. “I think that SAASHA is a very easy organization to join thanks to how kind and warm all members are.” 

When asked what they want to see from SAASHA in the future, Corum and Peetz said they plan to encourage more team building within the organization. Forero hopes that SAASHA will get more closely involved with other student organizations so it can continue empowering people and improving the universal campus culture, and Dunkel wants to prioritize structural change in the broader community. Stoddard is interested in more advocacy work, while Mozhaev emphasized the importance of smooth, organized leadership transitions between current and future SAASHA boards. 

“We always are coming up with new possibilities for impact,” said Mozhaev. “If you have any suggestions for what SAASHA can do in the future, hit us up on Instagram or come to the general meetings!”