SAAM program raises student awareness

saam flag

By CAROLINA BARBA and RAFAEL FLORES, Staff Reporters |

The Sexual Assault Awareness Month program was held April 24 in the burrow of the College Union Building from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event was put on by the Amarillo College Police Department, the Student Government Association and Family Support Services. 

Opening up the event was the director of the FSS, Kathy Tortoreo. She said that in 2018, Amarillo had the highest sexual assault rate in the state. The event also included a special guest speaker, Norma Ghee, a survivor of sexual assault. Ghee currently runs her own antique shop in Amarillo, but years before starting her business, she had an encounter that she said “took her strength.” 

Ghee recounted going to a barbecue with friends. She became intoxicated and had to stay overnight in their guest bedroom. That’s when the 26-year-old son of her friend came into her room and assaulted her. She said the victimization was not just in the sexual act itself, but the reaction of her loved ones. Her husband constantly blamed her for being raped, which ultimately led to the end of their 20-year marriage. 

Ghee sought out help from Family Support Services. She has dealt with PTSD and depression and said she has learned to get over her trauma. “I want to be happy — I don’t want to be dwelling on all that mess–or living in the past,” Ghee said. 

According to FBI crime data, rape has a 24 percent arrest rate. Ghee did not report her attack because she was too ashamed to admit what had happened. 

“The more people that come forward, the more courage other people will have to come forward,” Tortoreo said. 

Mallery Warden, a nuclear medicine major and SGA publicity chair, said events like this can decrease the chances of sexual assault occurring.   Warden added that it helps make students and faculty more aware of the issue. Stephanie Saldana, an AC police officer, agreed.

The April 24 event concluded a series of activities recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). “The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it,” Jenna Welch, the student life specialist, said.

“Holding these types of events on campus is extremely important,” Welch, said. “College campuses across the country have been working to change the culture and conversation about sexual assault and its prevalence on college campuses. Amarillo College advocates for a campus that is free of sexual assault and serves as an ally for survivors.” 

“It’s important for AC to provide information to students about sexual assault,” Louis Castillo, an engineering major, said. “It’s a topic many choose not to speak of mainly because victims or people who have experienced sexual assault tend to stay traumatized, scared or depressed.”

Welch said students should know that AC takes sexual assault seriously and that the college is there to advocate for the students.

“People need to know that there are services and people that they can be provided with to help them out or to avoid such horrible actions,” Castillo, said.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with assault or abuse, contact Family Support Services at 806-342-2500.

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