Students Against Sexual Violence (SASV) Empowers Victims of Abuse on American University’s Campus

lauren bowring

(American University student activist, Lauren Bowring: Photo by Tessa Dolt)

By Tessa Dolt, October 8, 2017 10:24p.m.

WASHINGTON – Current SASV Education and Consent chairperson and sexual abuse survivor, Lauren Bowring knows the power of student activism and empowerment.

Bowring is a third-year student at American University’s School of International Service and is serving her first semester on SASV’s executive board.

Last September, Bowring attended the SASV event, “WTF’s the Deal with Brock Turner?” The discussion about rape culture resonated with her, said Bowring, and she began to get more involved. “I ended up going to more of their events and learned how my past relationships that I had an icky feeling about were abusive. It kind of just gave me a way to put words to my own experience,” said Bowring.

Bowring joined SASV’s executive board this semester and is currently organizing a self-care event. Bowring said she hopes to work on a curriculum on consent for upperclassmen in the near future.

The curriculum that Bowring proposed could replace Empower AU, a program ran by the Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence (OASIS), which stopped running as of this semester. “We’re changing gears right now. Last year and the year before that, we held a lot of more informational sessions. But we’re trying to move towards being a radical education group,” said Bowring.

According to Bowring, SASV’s goal is to become a structural part of the university. “There’s so many different organizations that are talking about sexual assault on campus like Women’s Initiative, Sexual Assault Working Group (SAWG) who works with administration, and then there’s Queers and Allies. But we’re trying to be more of a base so that things are standardized when e-boards come and go,” said Bowring.

SASV is an on-campus resource for any student who is a victim of emotional or physical abuse. “I think it’s really easy to feel lost, like even with Title XI. If you file a complaint, it can be really confusing and we don’t have lawyers. What college student has a lawyer on retainer? So if they need information, we are a resource to point people in the way that they want to go,” said Bowring.

The campus organization hopes to do more activist work in the greater Washington area, according to Bowring. In the past, SASV has partnered with End Rape on Campus (EROC), local organizations, and clubs on campus that provide funding for the consent carnival held annually on the quad.

“The consent carnival that happens every year on the quad is co-sponsored by the fraternity Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), which I have mixed feelings about because it’s always riding a line when you associate with Greek Life in terms of sexual assault,” said Bowring.

Many reported sexual assault cases on college campuses involve fraternities. According to EROC’s website, fraternity men are three times more likely to commit rape than their non-Greek peers.

“I think most people at this point know that college campuses are really a hot bed for sexual assault,” said Bowring. “College is a big time where people get into relationships and they’re away from home. Your friends might not know you and your habits as well, so it’s really easy to sink into something that might be toxic and/or unhealthy and/or abusive and not know it.”

Some students may not realize they are victims of abuse if they’ve never received education on consent. Bowring was one of those students. “This organization gave me a way to express my experience and justify it and sort of have a community to help me with that, even if they didn’t know they were helping me,” said Bowring.

Bowring knows the difficulties of navigating relationships and having meaningful conversations about consent. “I think [SASV is] really important because we help empower students, and that’s the biggest thing is that when you’re in college, you might not know the options you have or might feel you have to do a certain thing if you experience any sort of violence or abuse. We help inform students about what to do if they’re affected or if their friends are affected and ultimately, empower.”

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