Local Sexual Assault Advocates, LSAA, are faculty members and students who support and advocate for students who have experienced interpersonal violence on or off campus. Their most recent training session, held on Nov. 9 in the Alumni Conference Room, sought to increase the number of people advocating for survivors of sexual assault.
The training allows for dialogue about how to interact with others respectfully without dismissing others’ concerns. Students, like Isaiah “I.Q.” Quarles, a sophomore from Chicago, Ill., have found the training to be beneficial for both their personal lives and for other students.
“I’ve always been aware of how men, myself included, have interacted with women negatively or not in the best way that we want to,” said Quarles. “Joining LSAA, I would say, has made me be more in a position of effecting change. It’s given me more responsibility on educating others on how we should talk to women and respect one another.”
After attending a five hour training session, advocates are ready to serve the student body. However, there is always more to learn about supporting others and much improvement to be done around campus. Open meetings are held about once a month, where LSAAs discuss improvements to the program and changes around campus.
“The group has definitely had a lot of recent improvement,” said Khaiylah Johnson-Bustamante, a sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y. “Last semester, there were some students sometimes, but a lot of people graduated. Since then, we’ve started having more meetings, so that’s been good. I feel like last semester, it was like gathering the group and figuring out what it is. And this semester has been trying to do a little something. I wish it was more.”
With their small size and recent establishment, the group is working on small projects to get going. Its primary focus is bringing about awareness of their existence. Quarles agreed that the group has made small changes, but he saw a significant impact as a result of those changes.
“I feel like the changes we made so far are small, but they’re still big changes. Because previously, we just had boring bathroom signs, that nobody ever read. It was just boring flyers that didn’t catch anybody’s attention. They weren’t aware of where are school stood regarding sexual assault,” said Quarles. “Now, people know that there are these resources we have on campus, and these are the things they can do to help one another or to help someone else get the support they need.”
LSAA is currently working to strengthen its direct impact on campus. Members are looking to work with other student organizations to bring awareness and build up the program. The group continues to make progress as it lays the foundation for support among students at Albion College.
“Right now, our impact is not as direct as I would like it. I feel like with the bathroom signs, we kind of do things like that, like fixing the website, fixing the way people communicate with us, I think that’s been the impact lately,” said Johnson-Bustamante. “We do have some survivors coming to us, but not as many. Not a lot of people know about us.”
Albion College recently received a grant, which the group hopes will provide more structure and support for their work. Currently, Johnson-Bustmante takes the lead as a student member, and looks to more designation in the future.
“I schedule the meetings and I write up notes for the meetings and any important LSAA events that I think the other advocates should be aware of. That’s pretty much it for now,” said Johnson-Bustamante. “The grant we received is going to give us a community panel. And there are two volunteer positions for students, so I did apply for that. I really like doing this work and I’m passionate about.”
Quarles, along with other members, believes in the potential impact the group can have in the future. With the grant, there will be paid staff leading their efforts. The group can become a more official community for students to support others and improve their communication with others. The small changes the group is making now will lead to greater changes.
This semester, there has been more faculty than students involved in LSAA. Although student participation increased at the last training session, LSAA is seeking more diverse participant representation. Quarles was one of just two male students in attendance at the training.
“I feel like, although men are usually the perpetrators of these acts, the problems that we have, we need to include men because they will and they can help stop most of the actions that are happening towards women,” said Quarles. “I just feel like there’s not enough of us. It shouldn’t be just women supporting women but men and women and other groups supporting survivors of interpersonal violence.”
Students can contact LSAAs on the Albion College website in the Student Life tab under Relationship Violence and Sexual Assault. Faculty or students involved in the program will respond within 24 hours to schedule an appointment with the student.
Harassment has become a normalized part of society. For Quarles, ensuring that he was not adding to the culture of dismissing women was a significant factor in joining. He sees that there is still much to do as a society and wants to be a part of the solution. The work LSAAs do has a lasting impact on the people it touches, and is an essential part of changing the culture around sexual assault. Quarles adds that LSAA’s efforts are ongoing.
“I think it’s important to remember that we’re here, we’re open and we’re improving every day. Because we want to make sure that the community knows we exist and that this isn’t just a one and done thing,” said Quarles. “It’s a continuous effort to make sure survivors are supported and that we are here to support them throughout anything that happens.”