Written by Emily Kressley
SASS is the Student Association for Sexual Safety. According to the association’s official mission statement, SASS is “a student coalition of passionate allies, survivors, and advocates who are dedicated to creating a healthy and safe sexual climate, as well as shifting the culture on Colorado College’s campus towards ending sexual violence.” This past weekend the group conducted a sexual assault prevention training program for off-campus houses.
The idea was born when an off-campus house reached out to senior Nia Abram, a very active member of SASS. Ben Tweedy, a senior and resident of the house, said they reached out to Abram for help in “ensuring a good, safe party scene.” The hope was to get an on-campus group more involved in off-campus life, where the skills learned in SASS training could actually be implemented. Many of the senior boys of Tweedy’s house were NSO leaders and, having discussed safety within the CC party culture on their Priddy trips, raised concerns about making sure their house was a safe space for parties. At first the house just wanted a large banner advocating consent, but the project soon turned into something greater.
The training session was heavily based off the “B.A.D.A.S.S.” (Be Aware, Decide to Act, Say Something) training CC requires first-year students to complete, but more tailored to the party scene specifically. It was surprising that “there was no partnership in the past with off-campus parties,” said Abram, as this is where the skills learned in the training are actually implemented. It is one thing to be lectured at and read statistics; it is another to practice in real life situations.
The training consisted of first defining why students want to host or go to a party. Abram explained how this is something many take for granted—it’s college, it’s assumed there will be parties. The SASS training started with defining these goals: people go to parties to listen to music, dance, or hang out with friends. Sometimes the motivation is to get drunk or to have consensual sex, but the goal is never to be sexually assaulted. The training emphasized that many of the positives of the party scene can come with a risk. The goal is to educate people on how to intervene and prevent dangerous situations.
The SASS training differs from B.A.D.A.S.S. in that it gives concrete solutions on how to intervene in a party situation. Often, it can be hard to intervene as the person trying to help may be inebriated, influenced by the bystander effect, or afraid of the social backlash from directly intervening. The SASS training starts with the hosts of the parties instead of just campus leaders like in B.A.D.A.S.S. training. It teaches people more nuanced ways to respond, as well as to look out for less direct things, like jokes or comments that perpetuate rape culture. Training is also guided by a comprehensive sex-education book written by students on the topics of birth control, STDs, policies, rape culture, and confronting issues surrounding race, sexuality, and gender. “We use the book to supplement training so that people feel knowledgeable and comfortable in taking leadership in situations…so that substantial change actually occurs,” said junior Izzy Nathanson, one of the SASS co-chairs.
Certification for a house requires that two occupants of the house attend the interactive training. They are taken through various scenarios and coached on appropriate responses. These approaches can be as simple as asking someone who seems to be uncomfortable how they are doing or if they feel unsafe. There are many ways to diffuse the situation without confronting the perpetrator. Once training is completed, the house is certified and supplied with a care package of posters reading things such as “Consent is BAE—before anything else” or “every kiss begins with consent” to show they are a safe space and will not condone sexual harassment.
Abram explained how the hope is to publish a list of houses that have been “certified” as an incentive to get other houses certified. Right now the focus is to get hosts certified as they have more authority in the situation, but once the training has been fleshed out, SASS encourages everyone to go through the training.
The training is quick, only about an hour and a half, but it is also fun and interactive. The goal is to “make it as accessible as possible,” said Nathanson. People were “interested, engaged, and participating a lot” with nothing but great feedback from students in attendance. Nathanson also mentioned how the plan is to have another training session in Block 5, “trying to reach more and more groups. The best case scenario is to have more and more houses certified by SASS.” The plan is to also reach out to members of athletics.
People were very excited to attend, and the fraternities were no exception. There were representatives from all three of the CC fraternities. One fraternity member even requested that the entire chapter of their fraternity on campus go through this training. The training has been successful largely in part because it is student-led. While the Wellness Center does great work for awareness and prevention, the student-led training offers a new dynamic in the context of sexual safety.
Future goals for SASS involve trauma-informed care training. “A lot of training has been delegation, but next will be what to actually do in the situation,” said Abram. Students should be on the lookout for SASS banners and a marked sober host when they’re at parties. This way, there are “troops on the ground” to verify that the information SASS is giving students in training is working.
The big theme with SASS is intersectionality between student organizations and groups, academic and social aspects of college life, and the students and administration.