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NASA prepares for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

(top row from left) Hannah Maxa ('17) , Natalie Cote ('19), Lydia Nelson ('17), Luke Emerson ('19), Matt Bills. (bottom row from left) Jenny Hickey ('19), Brigid Burke ('18), Catelyn Janda ('18).

(top row from left) Hannah Maxa ('17) , Natalie Cote ('19), Lydia Nelson ('17), Luke Emerson ('19), Matt Bills. (bottom row from left) Jenny Hickey ('19), Brigid Burke ('18), Catelyn Janda ('18).

Nora Felt (‘17) | Chips

Nora Felt (‘17) | Chips

(top row from left) Hannah Maxa ('17) , Natalie Cote ('19), Lydia Nelson ('17), Luke Emerson ('19), Matt Bills. (bottom row from left) Jenny Hickey ('19), Brigid Burke ('18), Catelyn Janda ('18).

Nora Felt, Staff Writer

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Norse Against Sexual Assault (NASA) is putting statistics into action for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April to create a dialogue about sexual assault on campus.

On March 31 campus will be dotted with approximately 300 balloons tied to students, a visual representation of the percentage of the approximately 1 in 8 students that experience sexual assault during their college career.

NASA is a collaborative group between students and administration that advocates for sexual assault awareness, education, prevention, and support. NASA strives to create a campus and larger society that is aware and intolerant of sexual assault.

Student life recently conducted the Sexual Assault Survey and NASA plans to use these statistics to inspire change on campus.

The first step in enacting change is raising awareness through conversation and education, according to NASA’s Head of Communication Hannah Maxa (‘17). Since students are immersed in a culture that experiences sexual assault, it is crucial for NASA to create rhetoric that allows open dialogue about difficult subject matter. NASA expressed that words, like “consent,” and “sexual assault,” can easily lose meaning, be morphed to individual interpretations, and used in vastly different ways and contexts according to Maxa.

This is a driving factor behind the balloon event and Sexual Assault Awareness Month as a whole. Maxa said a goal of NASA is advocating for awareness and conversation.

“There is a lot more gray matter that can come out in conversation,” Maxa said.

Sexual assault can be perceived as uncomfortable and emotional to discuss; in order to do so NASA is trying to reach all of the Luther community in new ways.

“We want to get people involved however they are comfortable,” Maxa said. “Some people aren’t that comfortable talking about sexual assault. It’s a touchy subject. Maybe they don’t want to watch a movie, but they’ll go to a lecture.”

NASA has an intensive month to raise awareness, educate, and discuss how to end sexual assault. This cannot be done without complete community engagement to create momentum that spans past the single month of April, according to Maxa.

Associate Director of Human Resources and Title IX Director and NASA’s faculty advisor Matt Bills hopes for the longevity of NASA to help reach the students and administration’s goal of ceasing sexual assault.

“We are working to create a campus climate that is intolerant of sexual misconduct,” Bills said. “I love that language because it evokes a community itself that is resistant to these types of acts. That’s the end goal of NASA, that’s the end goal of the administration.”

Following the balloon event, NASA has scheduled myriad events to engage all corners of the Luther community. NASA will screen the documentary about sexual violence, “It Happened Here,” on April 6 in Valders 206. Riley Dennis, an intersectional feminist and public speaker dedicated to lifting marginalized voices and creating dialogue around pressing issues, like rape culture, will be coming to speak on April 27. The variety of events is aimed at community engagement. NASA does not succeed as an organization if the community is not actively and continuously involved, according to Bills.

NASA had a successful Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2016. NASA hopes to have similar success in event attendance this year that will spawn continuous growth and change in Luther’s climate. Continuous growth is a focus for both the students and the administration.

“I have no doubt that this group [of leaders] are passionate about NASA,” Maxa said. “But what happens when they leave? We hope to create a continuous group doing this type of advocacy.”

Bills echoed this hope for the longevity of a sexual assault advocacy partnership between administration and students.

“My number one goal is make sure students have the support they need to create a sustainable organization that can do important advocacy on our campus,” Bills said.

NASA has been active on Luther’s campus for just over a year now. NASA has organized Bystander Intervention Trainings and partnered with many sports teams in previous awareness efforts. The awareness efforts will continue throughout April. 

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