RMU and PAAR team up to promote sexual assault awareness

Andrea Zanaglio, News Editor

Throughout this week, Randon Willard, a personal/crisis counselor at RMU’s Center for Student Success and coordinator of educational programs on campus for alcohol, drugs and sexual assault, in partnership with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) conducted a Top Model search to find RMU students to participate in a poster campaign to actively promote sexual assault awareness on campus.

Five years ago, PAAR began its “Got Consent?” campaign, which they adopted from a national campaign, according to PAAR Education and Training Specialist Laura Summers.

“The basic concept for it is that students will interview to become the models for the campaign,” explained Willard. “The models will become ambassadors for sexual assault education on campus.”

Students were able to apply to be a model in the Nicholson Food Court beginning Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tomorrow, Oct. 28, is the final day to sign up. Any undergraduate is eligible to participate.

Of all the applicants, RMU students will vote on who they believe should become the representatives for this effort.

At other universities, such as Point Park University and La Roche College, anywhere from three to 10 students were chosen as models for the campaign, Summers stated.

In addition to the photo shoot for the posters, which has been shot by students of the participating universities, Summers said students selected as models will be required to attend a training session to learn more about sexual assault in order to make others aware of the issue.

“My hope is that they will also help with other efforts, other events we will do on campus,” Summers stated. “So, it’s sort of a student leadership opportunity as well as a way to personal enhancement and further knowledge that is very relevant to the college experience right now.”

Both Summers and Willard agree that involving students in the campaign rather than unknowns is much more beneficial to students.

“What I love about it, personally, is it not only engages students, but it also trains some students to be kind of activists around this issue. So, my hope is that if we don’t do this exact campaign that we continue with a model where students are leading the effort around sexual assault awareness,” said Willard. “I would like to see less of it coming from [the advisors] and more of it coming from students in general.”

Summers added that students are more inclined to notice the posters if they know someone on them.

“I have heard really great feedback from students at each university that it’s very cool to see someone that they know in a poster and it really drives that effort,” she said.

According to Willard, RMU’s sexual awareness campaign will take place sometime in the spring most likely during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Summers believes sexual assault on campuses is something students should be aware of in order to protect themselves.

“It’s immensely important for students to be aware of sexual assault because it is affecting the lives of millions everyday and is a huge issue on college campuses,” Summers declared. “So, we can arm our students with knowledge, and we can arm them with how to deal with situations, how to talk about their relationships and give them the skills that they need to stay safe.”

PAAR’s website states that its “mission is to respond to survivors of sexual violence with crisis intervention, counseling and advocacy; advocate for systems to respond to and prevent sexual violence and educate to prevent sexual violence.”

Anyone in need of help in regards to sexual violence may contact the organization’s free, confidential hotline 24 hours a day at 1-866-363-7273.