By Maggie Phillips
Time’s up. The recent cultural awakening to the prevalence of sexual violence triggered by the “#MeToo” social media campaign and countless celebrities sharing their stories is evidence that time is running out for misogyny and sexual violence in our society.
Washington received its own wake-up call last spring, when the program had to address allegations of sexual assault. These incidents led to a clear and unanimous feeling that something had to be done.
A coalition of leaders from the men’s and women’s rowing teams came together to form Student-Athletes Against Sexual Harassment and Assault (SAASHA).
SAASHA’s mission is to promote a culture of healthy relationships that is free of sexual violence by driving cultural change through the leadership of student-athletes.
“Enough is enough. We are taking a stand. We will address the issue within the team, within athletics, and within college campuses by using SAASHA to increase education and active awareness,” states SAASHA student-athlete board member sophomore Marley Avritt.
SAASHA is currently focused on opportunities for change within the rowing team and UW athletic environment. The goal is to move beyond lectures and training to create innovative programming that educates and changes cultural perceptions towards sexual violence. So far, events have included a lecture from professor Pepper Schwartz about healthy relationships, a “speed meet” event between the men’s and women’s rowing teams, and a documentary screening and discussion of “The Hunting Ground” for the entire UW athletic department.
Senior and SAASHA leader Mason Pollock states, “We are using Washington Rowing to plant a seed. Our hope is that SAASHA’s mission will take root in our athletic department and grow to affect change across campus and the eventually the nation.”
Moving forward, SAASHA will be partnering with other student groups on campus for events and fundraisers to strengthen the message of ending sexual violence within athletics and beyond. SAASHA hopes to build a program that will be transferable to other rowing teams and athletic communities throughout the nation.
Washington Rowing has long set the highest standard in terms of innovation on the water and in the classroom. This is the next level where the program can demonstrate leadership beyond the boat.
“Our athletic department offers robust sexual assault and harassment education and programming, but what makes SAASHA unique is that it is owned by student-athletes,” Erin O’Connell, Senior Associate Athletic Director, said. “To see students taking ownership and accountability for this issue is inspiring, and a trend we hope catches on throughout campus.”
SAASHA presents another opportunity for alumni to engage with the development of Washington Rowing student-athletes and have an impact on the development of the team culture. If you have any ideas, connections, or resources that relate to our message to end sexual violence please contact us at [email protected]
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