The University of Maryland SGA passed a bill last Wednesday to fund resources and materials to prevent sexual assault.
The bill allows the organization to allocate money for purchasing sexual assault prevention materials. This includes cup-condoms — plastic cup covers that prevent roofies from being slipped into drinks — along with reusable cup-condom straws, phone wallets and QR code stickers providing information on the drink test cards. These materials are all meant to target power-based violence at this university.
Reese Artero, a sophomore criminology and criminal justice major and the bill sponsor, said the Title IX office has reported a rise in reports of sexual assaults on campus. While it could be the result of students returning to campus and engaging in social events after COVID-19 quarantine, Artero decided the organization needed to do work to lower numbers.
“I feel very strongly that SGA has a commitment to ensuring the safety and well being of students, and this is one of the ways that I think we do that,” Artero said.
The preventative materials will be distributed throughout April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Aadhiti Vallatharasu, a junior government and politics major, is the director of sexual misconduct in the Student Government Association. She said she is excited to have the opportunity to distribute the resources.
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“It’s something that we as college students don’t necessarily think in our list of things to bring to school, so I’m happy that SGA has the opportunity to provide it,” Vallatharasu said.
Vallatharasu said while it is not finalized, she is hoping to distribute the materials outside McKeldin Library during the day and around the local bars at night.
Student organization Preventing Sexual Assault is in support of the bill. Damiana Colley, a junior criminology and criminal justice and psychology major, is the group’s co-president.
“I’m glad that instead of focusing on reaction, SGA specifically has centered more towards prevention strategies with also reaction measures in place as well,” Colley said.
Colley said that while she is in support of the bill, she wishes there was also an emphasis on education surrounding sexual assault.
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“The responsibility to prevent sexual assault should come from education and awareness for these individuals that are likely perpetrators or that kind of thing,” Colley said. “We really need to emphasize education and training.”
In the future, Artero hopes to fund more preventative materials that could be widely available for students. This includes drink test coasters and drink test wristbands to be distributed by the bars around campus.
This bill comes after earlier legislation focused on sexual assault prevention passed last month. The previous bill funded QR code stickers that provide information on the signs and symptoms of being drugged. The stickers are in the process of being put in College Park bars.
While she thinks the bill is a step forward, Colley still hopes for more change on campus.
“The bill is great and I’m super happy that it’s passed, even though it sounds like I might be critical of it,” Colley said. “But there’s always room for improvement, and that’s why we’re gonna continue to be an organization.”