Our first SAAM Student Spotlight features seniors Hailey Chaikin and Rachel Salem from the University of Maryland College Park’s Preventing Sexual Assault (PSA) student group. Check out their interview to learn more about their initiatives and upcoming events at the UMD College Park Campus:
Tell us about Preventing Sexual Assault. What is PSA’s main goal?
PSA is the only student organization on campus dedicated solely to protecting and uplifting survivors as well as acting as the voice for students in all matters related to Title IX and power-based violence. We lead many education and prevention programs aimed at engaging the community as well as creating space for survivors and students in the conversation with administration. PSA sits on the Sexual Assault Prevention Committee and the Title IX Advisory Board. Most of what we do is influenced by the fact that survivors deserve to be heard and protected on their campus, as well as the notion that oftentimes students at UMD want a space to talk about power-based violence but don’t know how or where to start the conversation. Our main goals include raising awareness and educating the student body on campus sexual assault, communicating with and holding our university’s administration accountable, and providing a safe space for survivors where they feel seen and heard.
How did you get involved with PSA?
Rachel: I got involved in PSA by befriending Rachel Colonomos my freshman year who was president of PSA at the time. She invited me to Occupy McKeldin and her passion for PSA and the cause in general inspired me to join the organization. I had never felt like I had access to activism in clubs before college and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get involved in something that was important to me and where I felt I could make a real difference.
Hailey: I got involved in PSA because I was able to be on the planning board of Occupy McKeldin my freshman year after participating in a fundraiser. I also attribute my passion to finding out how so many of my friends and loved ones had been assaulted and wanted to know how to comfort and help them. Since then, PSA has become my passion project.
How do you engage the UMD Campus in Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April?
Occupy McKeldin is an annual PSA event hosted on UMD’s McKeldin Mall during SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month). At Occupy, we invite speakers from all different walks of life to come and educate UMD students on the topic of sexual assault and spread awareness on this issue to our student body and community. The 2019 Occupy McKeldin had over 1,000 attendees and included a community service aspect where participants made care kits for human trafficking survivors. This year, PSA’s theme for Occupy McKeldin is “Every 68 Seconds”, which represents the frequency that someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. Past speakers have included Bill Cosby and Larry Nassar survivors and Brittany Piper, the Director of the Hunting Ground. This year, the event will take place on April 22, 2022.
How do you engage the UMD Campus in prevention year-round?
Slut Walk is an event we hold in October where we hold a protest/march on campus with an aim to show survivors they are seen and illustrate to our administration that we are paying attention. Our goal is foster community, increase awareness around sexual assault, and combat victim blaming and slut shaming.
RealTalk is an event held in November. It is a community-style open forum that we set in a bar every year in order to combat the notion that because alcohol is involved, sexual assault is okay. We want this event to show that this conversation is not taboo and can be normal. RealTalk is meant to be a safe place for members of the UMD community to discuss issues around sexual assault and how we can work to fix this issue on our campus. We provide questions and have an open conversation where we facilitate a safe and casual conversation surrounding sexual assault. This year’s theme was Reclaiming Our Campus: Navigating In-person Activities & How UMD Can Better Support Us.
Greek Life Chapter Real Talks are facilitated conversations with one sorority and one fraternity to discuss topics such as consent, power dynamics, social stigmas, and beyond. This initiative was started by the President last year, Lizzie Mafrici. Since its inception, we have spoken to over 10 chapters about their sexual assault prevention policies and how to make this community safer.
In addition, we have a strong presence on social media where we post about current events, healing posts from survivors, and repost relevant stories. We also use this platform to call out our school and make statements on current issues on our campus. In addition, after every General Body Meeting, we have Instagram highlights with recaps for members who were not able to attend as well as our followers in general. We also research and gather resources based on issues that are relevant, such as tips for secondary survivors, Title IX regulations, and your legal rights as a survivor. Through this platform we also promote and are promoted by other on-campus organizations.
Lastly, we stay up to date with current events and campus news. We have established relationships with the Diamondback School Newspaper, The Panhellenic Association, The Interfraternity Council, The Student Government Association, The Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Black Terps Matter, CARE to Stop Violence, and even MCASA!
How can UMD students and community members get involved with PSA?
There are a few different ways to get involved in our club. The lowest time-commitment is being an ambassador of our club, which requires you to: attend at least 1 meeting per month (6 total per semester), share events and stories, and help brainstorm and implement initiatives. We encourage people who are interested in this to complete this form and they will be added to our general GroupMe to stay involved and updated with all things PSA!
You can also contact us and support us via:
Do you know another group of student leaders on a Maryland campus MCASA can highlight? Send us their information to [email protected]!