By Amanda Foster, Sigma Delta Tau sister
My name is Amanda Foster and I am a junior at Rutgers University and a member of Sigma Delta Tau (SDT). Last spring, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a facilitator for JWI’s Safe Smart Dating program, a workshop that brought my chapter and fraternity Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) together to discuss dating abuse, sexual assault and being an active bystander.
As I prepared to lead my small group discussions, I became deeply interested in the way that JWI was working to bring awareness to the dating violence and sexual assault that is happening on our college campuses. It was real, straightforward and engaging. I have friends who have been in abusive relationships as well as some who have experienced sexual assault. The idea that I had the chance to possibly help prevent that from happening in the future – well, I jumped on it!
Rutgers, like most (if not all) colleges, has a problem with sexual assault. I think there’s a problematic attitude where people think that sexual assault “just happens” or is “bad luck” or that the victim “put themselves in that situation.” Sexual assault is NOT inevitable like people tend to justify it by saying! How crazy is that? How crazy is it that people think that because the statistic (1 in 5 women) is so high, that it is inevitable, that sexual assault is bound to happen!? It is not!
Why are we educating women on not wearing revealing clothes, or to not drink too much or walk home alone? While all of these are important and smart ways to keep yourself safe as a young woman, why are we not teaching men about what consent means? I hope ZBT pairing with JWI on Safe Smart Dating is only the start. I hope that men want to see an end to this just as much as women do.
After the Safe Smart Dating program, I applied to be a Campus Ambassador and work with JWI on addressing these issues on my campus year-round. This fall, I worked closely with JWI and the philanthropy chair of my chapter, Ashleigh David, to create a “spa night” fundraiser/program, starting meaningful conversations as well as selling the Girls Achieve Grapeness! nail polish that helps raise money for JWI. The idea behind this program was to get girls in a room in a fun way to raise awareness about sexual assault and start the conversation.
For our first year doing it, it was such a success! It was a spa with a twist – for each part of the spa, we had something to encourage conversations about consent. For instance, instead of magazines in the waiting area, we had ads glorifying sexual assault and encouraged people to tweet about consent. We had YouTube videos about consent at the table where girls were drying their nails. We had girls from all the chapters on campus as well as other Rutgers women join us to get their nails done, watch a makeup tutorial, eat and take pictures in a photobooth. We had salons in the area donate spa baskets and gift cards that allowed us to also do a raffle to raise more money for JWI.
Consent education matters. As JWI’s Dana Fleitman always says, “we don’t want a yeah, we want a HELL YEAH!” when it comes to consent!
Drinking at college is going to happen. Flirting and hookups at college are going to happen. Sexual assault doesn’t have to be something that “happens.”
Being able to be a Campus Ambassador has been a great opportunity for me because I have gotten the chance to help promote something that I believe in. I believe that knowledge is power and by educating college women on issues that are right in front of us all the time, we are better prepared to handle situations ahead. I hope that for the rest of the academic year I can continue to raise awareness and educate the women at Rutgers.
Amanda Foster is a sister of Sigma Delta Tau at Rutgers University and a campus ambassador for JWI.