Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read the very first Students Abroad Sexual Assault Resource Initiative blog post. This will probably be one of the lengthier entries, but I feel it will be worth your read.
I would like to start out by giving you a background on how SASARI came to be.
As you may already know, I was raped while studying abroad in 2005. I did not reach out for help at all. Trying to explain my reasoning is far too complicated for this blog post. But I can say that I suffered from depression. Around 2010 or 2011 when I was experiencing particularly deep depression I reached out to my relatively new device, the smart phone. I used Google to search “study abroad rape help” and all I remember seeing were stories of other people being raped abroad. This was my first attempt to reach out for help. What I feel I was doing was acknowledging the fact that study abroad sexual assault deserved its own set of resources and help.
In 2014 I was feeling especially courageous. I picked up the phone and I called the study abroad program at NDSU so I could inform them about what happened to me while traveling through their program and they transferred my phone call to the campus sexual assault advocate as fast as humanly possible. After several phone conversations the advocate asked me to shoot a 3 minute video to show to future study abroad students at NDSU orientation. During the process I decided I wanted an organization for this video to belong to, but I didn’t know of one that was the right fit. Within a week the name Students Abroad Sexual Assault Resource Initiative came to me like an epiphany. Every time somebody compliments me on the name or logo it makes me smile. I can’t wait to make a difference in the lives of others with the work of SASARI.
My initial vision for SASARI was that we needed to get our study abroad students educated on this important cause during orientation before leaving.
The moment I started speaking publicly about my work people were quick to tell me that my work is needed, but that many international students are coming to the United States and sexually assaulting our students here too. I listened.
While researching “study abroad sexual assault” I compiled a large list of things students are supposed to find out before traveling. I think we should be taking a more collaborative approach. I have two universities analyzing/scrutinizing my initial list and I can‘t wait to hear what they have to say. I have learnt that it may be best to approach campus sexual assault advocates about SASARI and not the study abroad programs themselves.
While gathering material for sasari.org I came across this statement “A common feeling a rape survivor will experience is that they feel all alone.” Reading this hit home for me. I didn’t even remember this part of my thought process post rape, but now I do and it was intense. Being abroad only exacerbates the feeling of being alone. In the moments after my rape I was certain that I was the only study abroad student who had ever been raped. Not only did I feel alone, but I didn’t have faith that anybody would understand just how bad my experience had been. Our students deserve the best and that is why I keep doing what I’m doing with SASARI. I don’t know if I will ever have accurate numbers on just how many students go abroad and are assaulted or assault, but I will sure do my best to be the voice for victims around the world.
My website is not where I want it to be yet. I just wanted the content available and started. My two main pages ‘Traveling Abroad?’ and ‘Get Help Now’ will be broken down and restructured to subpages with better titles and shorter pages. Right now I think they are hard to navigate and are too long. My home page also needs editing, but I cannot edit it until my website lady makes a little adjustment.
SASARI officially earned tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service on May 12th, 2015. What a great milestone!
SASARI is keeping track of stories that deserve public policy attention. Please read this article I found on Forbes.com titled “In Sexual-Assault Cases Overseas, School-Trip Chaperones Can’t Be Prosecuted” – http://onforb.es/1Bnmday
SASARI is still looking for founding board members. If you know of somebody who has an interest in the work of SASARI that would like to volunteer their time to this cause please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The last item of self disclosure I would like to share is that while I was obtaining my degree in Business Administration my very favorite class was leadership. I hope to be the best leader possible!
If you know of someone that might benefit from our resources, let them know how to find us.
*The photograph for this post is copyright 2008 by sandgrains.com.