SASH club raises awareness with Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign

by SSAIS Youth Leader Ana Baxter and the Pine-Richland High School SASH Club

A southwestern Pennsylvania chapter of Students Against Sexual Harassment (SASH) at Pine-Richland High School is presenting information on teen dating violence throughout the month of April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Each week the club will introduce a new theme to equip students with the knowledge to stop dating violence in their community.

Teen dating violence is a serious issue for high school students. In a study of 5,647 teens in grades 7-12 in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, 20.7% of students reported that they had experienced physical dating violence within the past year. A large banner in the high school foyer shows that survivors of dating violence are not alone. Each teal ribbon on the banner statistically represents one survivor of this abuse in the high school’s student population. Posters throughout the school define types of dating violence with vocabulary terms like stalking, assault, sexting, and psychological aggression so all students will understand the information presented. To remind every student that they deserve to be treated well by their dating partner, the theme for the first week in April is Know your Worth.

To show survivors that the school population stands with them, the SASH Club will ask all students, faculty and staff to join in Teal Out Action Day. Wearing the color teal will be a symbol of a pledge to break the cycle of teen dating violence and sexual assault. The goal of Teal Out Action Day is to raise awareness and educate the community to stop dating violence–including sexual harassment and assault–before they happen. By wearing teal, students, faculty and staff are showing support for the 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men who experience sexual violence in their lifetime. The SASH Club is providing wearable teal ribbons to every first-period classroom on Teal Out Action Day. Too often, the shame of sexual assault and dating violence rests with the victims. Until this view changes, sexual assault will continue to go unpunished and victims will not see justice. The SASH Club will ask each student, faculty, and staff member to wear a teal ribbon as a pledge to support the social change necessary to break the cycle of dating violence and sexual misconduct.

SASH Club campaign poster

The theme for the second week in April is Love is Respect. The SASH Club will be teaching students that their dating partners should always show respect. The club cautions that it’s unhealthy to be judged or obliged to change just to please a partner. Posters throughout the school list warning signs to help students recognize behaviors typical of unhealthy relationships. Each student will be given a teal silicone bracelet encouraging them to join the SASH Club to continue their education about these issues and to help plan future awareness campaigns.

SASH Club campaign poster

The theme for the third week in April is Ask for Consent. Consent is simple – it’s asking for permission – and it’s essential. Posters throughout the school define consent, clarify when it’s needed (including for any personal contact and for social media postings), illustrate how to recognize consent and non-consent, and explain terms for when consent is not obtained (harassment, battery, assault, rape). This week, a long roll of white paper will be posted on the wall next to the cloth and ribbon banner in the school foyer. At the top will be written: “I pledge to be part of the solution to end dating violence and sexual assault in our community. I pledge to always obtain consent from my dating partner.” The SASH Club will distribute teal post-it notes to each first-period classroom. All students will be asked to take time to sign a teal post-it note and stick it on the paper banner as a pledge to be part of the solution to teen dating violence. To help keep all women and men safe from dating violence and sexual assault, we all need to educate ourselves about these dangers, and commit to always asking our dating partners for consent.

On April 28, Denim Day, the SASH Club will invite the school community to participate in International Denim Day. For the past 22 years, Peace Over Violence has run an inspiring and powerful campaign to support survivors by renewing the commitment to expose harmful behaviors and attitudes surrounding sexual violence. Last year over 10 million people participated in Denim Day. The campaign began after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because justices felt victim, who was wearing tight jeans, must have helped the rapist remove her jeans, therefore implying consent. The following day, women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Denim Day asks community members, elected officials, business personnel, and students to make a social statement by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions surrounding sexual violence. The members of the SASH Club will invite all students, faculty, and staff to join the movement by wearing jeans, jean jackets and denim hats. Each denim fashion statement will be a sign to show support to survivors of dating violence and sexual assault, to renew our commitment to expose harmful behaviors and attitudes surrounding sexual violence, and to protest against the misconceptions surrounding dating violence. The SASH Club reminds students that no article of clothing is an invitation to assault someone, and assault is never the victim’s fault no matter what they were wearing.

The theme for the final week of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is Your Voice has Power. The SASH Club reminds students to remember the power of their voices as they move forward with the knowledge that equips them to make a difference in schools and communities. Students have the power to speak up when they aren’t treated with respect. Students have the power to speak up when witnessing or experiencing harassment or assault. The school community has the power to dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding sexual misconduct. And everyone has the power to speak words of support and reassurance to those who have survived teen dating violence. We can all help a survivor begin to heal just by saying we believe and support them. Survivors of teen dating violence are at risk of severe consequences including depression, migraines, chronic pain, trauma reactions like PTSD, substance use, eating disorders, future victimization, and suicide. Supporting a friend and believing a survivor can save a life. Students’ voices can make all the difference!

The Pine-Richland High School SASH Club was started by SSAIS Youth Leader Ana Baxter.

Learn how to start a SASH club at your school.