SigEp raises awareness with See-SAAW

Sigma Phi Epsilon launched off their annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week (SAAW) with a 24-hour See-SAAW event outside Maucker Union from April 8 to April 9.

LEZIGA BARIKOR, Campus Life Editor | [email protected]

On Monday, April 8, the UNI chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) brought out their annual 24-hour See-SAAW event to raise awareness for sexual assault on college campuses. It was a bright and sunny day to be seesawing, but as SigEp members rotated shifts at night, the reality of the issue of sexual assault becomes more somber.

“When you’re doing it at 2 a.m., you understand sexual assault can happen at any time,” said Ben Hirdler, a junior English and philosophy double major who has participated in the event every year. “So, it’s always been impactful.”

Hirdler said that before coming to college, he didn’t know much about sexual assault. Since joining the fraternity SigEp, he’s become more educated on the issue.

“I’ve learned a lot talking to survivors at the Riverview Center,” Hirdler said.

Hirdler said that through doing this event every year, he’s learned more about how to be an advocate and the resources available to survivors.

Each year, SigEp kicks off their Sexual Assault Awareness Week (SAAW), with a 24-hour See-SAAW event.

Jake Chaplin, freshman IDS digital imaging and digital advertising major, is the SigEp philanthropy chairman and director of SAAW.

“We want to be those people who really stand up and talk about sexual assault and having those difficult conversations,” Chaplin said.

Coming into UNI, Chaplin said he was very drawn to SigEp’s philanthropy. He said their motto for the event was #BeTheDifference.

Chaplin also noted that for every SAAW event, advocates from the Riverview Center will be present for anyone who needs help. The Riverview Center is a nonprofit agency in the Cedar Valley that supports individuals affected by sexual assault. This year SigEp has the goal of raising $10,000 for the center, according to their Facebook page.

The See-SAAW event this year was a collaboration with UNI’s chapter of International Justice Mission (IJM). They tabled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the event to spread awareness about the issue of human trafficking.

“Our main goal was to inform people of the signs of human trafficking and provide them with the resources to report the signs if they see them,” said Autumn Lauen, English teaching major and IJM secretary. “This specific event was a part of the Red Sand Initiative, which is a national organization that uses sand as a visual aid to show how people can fall through the cracks in society and end up in human trafficking.”

Lauen said that the collaboration with SigEp made sense because a large portion of human trafficking is sex trafficking.

Camille Petrich, junior psychology major and fellow member of Greek life in the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, rode a seesaw for the first time ever this Monday. Everyone who paid to ride the seesaw had their money donated directly to the Riverview Center.

Petrich pointed out how her male friends in SigEp take the issue very seriously.

“It’s nice to see as men too that they see the importance of sexual assault and spreading awareness for it,” Petrich said.

The next day of SAAW included a Survivor Panel Presentation, co-sponsored by the Northern Iowa Feminists and moderated by a Riverview Center advocate.

On Wednesday, SigEp hosted a Starbeck’s BBQ dinner at the Wesley Foundation for $7 to raise money for the Riverview Center.

Today, April 11, there will be a self-defense class at 3 p.m. in the Oak and University room taught by the UNI and Cedar Valley police department.

On Friday, April 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. SigEp will have a Baked Goods Giveaway in the Maucker Union. A donation is recommended and all proceeds go to the Riverview Center.

“I think people are confused that we’re only raising money, but we’re also raising awareness,” Hirdler said.

This year, an extra event will be happening on Monday, April 15, at 6 p.m. as UNI alum Vanessa McNeal is showing her documentary film, “Gridshock” about sex trafficking in Iowa.