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Student organization stands against sexual assault


The Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors is a student-led organization on the Hattiesburg campus. The organization is determined to help prevent sexual assault by educating students about healthy relationships and provide resources on campus.

SAPA is fully run by students with the help of faculty advisor and deputy Title IX coordinator Lenore Schaffer, Ph.D., and graduate student Lauren Mason.

Schaffer assists the students involved with Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors by recommending various training topics, coordinating member training and allows herself to be a resource to the students in the organization.

“As SAPA’s staff advisor, I get the wonderful opportunity to encourage, mentor, educate, and facilitate their growth as student leaders,”  Schaffer said. “I see myself as a resource: a motivator, mentor, and educator! Willing to help and brainstorm ideas with the team, but able to recognize that they are more than capable to lead and do good work.”

Schaffer said she is hoping for the student organization to make an impact on the University’s campus by providing proper resources and information about sexual assault.

“Consent education is needed,” Schaffer said. “My goal for this organization is that they would engage and facilitate conversations with their peers about consent, the University’s policies on Sexual Misconduct and healthy relationships. Peer education is a wonderful thing and can make the difference in preventing sexual assault on our campus and in our communities.”

The Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors has been a student organization for a year, and Selma Newbill has been the president since the beginning. Newbill is a sophomore English and political science double major with a minor in Spanish.

Newbill said SAPA has made a significant mark on the university’s campus with the presentation of its first independent project, Prints for Prevention.

“Prints for Prevention is a tabling event we do in the spring. We will have a table set up with a big canvas that’s painted with a teal ribbon,” Newbill said. “Think the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness, but instead teal.”

Vice president and sophomore nursing major Sarah Wiandt described what students could expect from Prints for Prevention.

“We’ll have teal stamp pads for people to come by and stamp their thumbprint onto the canvas to show their support of Sexual Assault Awareness month and of sexual assault prevention. We’ll have informational flyers and teal/blue candy and blue Kool-aid and lots of teal/blue things since it is the color of sexual assault awareness,” Wiandt said.  “Last year was the first year we did it, and it was received so well. We are super excited about our next one coming up this spring.”

The student-led organization won the 2017-2018 Best New Student Organization of the Year, for the hard work and impact on people’s knowledge of sexual assault awareness.

“In all honesty, Selma was the one who spearheaded this whole organization from the beginning. About a year ago, she came to me with this new idea- honestly just told me flat out that she was going to do it,” Wiandt said.

For Wiandt, the idea for the student organization was personal. With the Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors, Wiandt and other students have been given resources and support on the university’s campus.

“It spoke to me because I have seen the effects of assault on some of my close friends, and I have been in a situation where I was actually witnessing it and had absolutely no idea what to do,” Wiandt said. ”That instance stuck with me. It still sticks with me to this day, and I’ll never forget it, but SAPA has given me so many tools and the confidence and knowledge about what to do in situations like that.”

Newbill said SAPA has grown in membership.

“Since our first semester of being official, we have more than tripled in size as a group,” Newbill said. “We have an official constitution, participate in bystander intervention trainings, and make sure our members are trained in their understanding of sexual assault and how to prevent it on our campus.”

“We have female and male members of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds that are both graduate and undergraduate students in Greek Life [two fraternities and six sororities], Honors College, Luckyday, Student Government and many other organizations.”

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Student organization stands against sexual assault