The student organization Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE) is working to inform and empower the campus community to stand up against sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
During the month of April, PAVE will host 12 events and is hopeful about turnout following events that already occurred. The group hopes that by leading workshops and hosting events, they will educate and connect with a wide audience to start conversations about sexual assault, said PAVE chair Eli Tsarovsky.
Having started under new leadership in the fall and worked without a full team until January, PAVE set lofty goals that have come fruition throughout April.
“It’s like a dream,” Tsarovsky said. “We took an organization that had essentially zero people and have just made it something really exciting.”
Throughout the month, PAVE has co-hosted and sponsored events with different groups across campus. On April 28, it will round out SAAM with a Denim Day march that is cosponsored by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
“I think the biggest thing that I want to come out of this is just building an environment on this campus that is just much more like empathetic and caring of each other, really seeing people's humanity,” Tsarovsky said. “We can have these hard conversations, and we can actually make change happen on campus.”
PAVE has embraced the shift to online meetings this year, sourcing a variety of speakers and drawing much larger audiences than they have in the past.
Chanel Miller, author of Know My Name: A Memoir about her experience as a survivor, spoke to students Monday via Zoom at an event that drew over 100 attendees.
“Something we've noticed so far, is events have been really successful, educational, impactful, and that the people who stand to benefit from the most have actually been showing up finally,” said Alyssa Bokotey, a member of the PAVE peer education program. “Which is what we've been working towards.”
Other PAVE members echoed Bokotey’s excitement about attendance and engagement for SAAM events thus far. Reaching a wider audience is something PAVE has struggled with in the past, Bokotey said.
“To get to this place that we're at where we have so many events, and so many people are showing up and are willing to take part in the conversation, to me, indicates that there is broader change that's happening, (and) indicates to me that we are successful in our mission,” said PAVE Peer Education Coordinator Rachel Pomazal.
Reaching wider audiences has been a trend for PAVE, which had to significantly restructure over the past academic year. Aside from greater and wider attendance, the group has seen social media engagement and hosted a number of workshops that have exceeded their expectations, Tsarovsky said.
“This semester in general I think we've done a really good job of calling folks in instead of calling them out,” Pomazel said. “Populations who we may generally think of as someone who might be a perpetrator or might be part of a culture that is problematic. I think we've done a really good job of calling those folks into the conversation and giving them a seat at the table because it is their problem too, and we do have space for them.”