By Mitch Cohen
In today’s society, it’s important to address sexual abuse in an academic setting. According to womenshealth.gov, sexual assault on college campuses is a common problem that often goes unreported and as a result is more widespread. To combat this issue, Panthers Against Sexual Abuse (PASA) was established at Adelphi this semester. PASA's purpose is to educate students about sexual abuse while holding fundraisers to support survivors across the globe. Through this program, members will bring awareness to prevention, intervention and strategies for healing.
The club was founded by junior neuroscience major, Sofia Lauther. She said that during her middle school and high school years, she had a desire to learn more about topics such as sexual abuse and consent. This led her to come up with the idea for PASA during her senior year of high school. Once she got to Adelphi, that’s when the club became officially established.
“My purpose was to create a club where college students could go back and talk to high schoolers and middle schoolers about sexual abuse and what consent is,” Lauther said.
With how easily this behavior goes unnoticed, this club will allow students to learn about what causes abusive behavior. For example, one thing that PASA members will be learning about is Erin's Law, which as of July 2019 had been passed in 37 states, including New York. PASAs faculty advisor Tracy Stopler, an adjunct nutrition professor at Adelphi, stated that Erin’s Law was created to protect children from sexual abuse. “Erin was a young girl who was sexually abused and actually fought to get a law passed to protect children,” Stopler said.
Before speaking to high school and middle school students, PASA members need to be trained in explaining sexual abuse in a kid-friendly way. According to Stopler, the reason why PASA members are receiving training is because they need to learn how to communicate with students of different ages and educational backgrounds. “The education needs to change to the level, the appropriateness of the age of the listener,” Stopler said.
The organization that is training the club is called Safe Center Long Island, which is located in Bethpage. The purpose of these training sessions is to facilitate conversations with students in kindergarten through eighth grade. According to Safe Center Assistant Director Lorraine DiFiglia, members of PASA will be trained to present an NYS mandated workshop called “Safety Rules,” which focuses on teaching students how to respond in abusive situations. “This workshop teaches students to be proactive and never to keep abuse a secret,” said DiFiglia.
Safe Center Long Island was created in 2014 by merging two organizations, the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) and the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect (CCAN). This allows them to help victims of both domestic and child abuse. According to their website, Safe Center Long Island’s mission is “to protect, assist, and empower victims of family violence and sexual assault while challenging and changing social systems that tolerate and perpetuate abuse.”
At this time, PASA’s training with Safe Center Long Island has just begun, as they’ve had an introductory meeting to review presentation slides. One aspect of this meeting that resonated with Lauther was how they made sexual abuse easy for a younger student to understand, such as discussing what parts a bathing suit covers.
“I feel that took a lot of creativity from them because it’s an important topic for kids to learn about,” said Lauther. Another aspect of Safe Center Long Island that resonated with Lauther was how they discussed violence in the home. She learned that when children grow up in these violent circumstances, they don’t know what a healthy living environment looks like. “Being a kid in a violent household, you don’t know what’s healthy and what’s unhealthy,” she added.
Due to the importance of the subject matter, it’s essential for PASA to spread as much awareness as possible. Lauther said that so far at Adelphi they’re only going to be doing events and fundraisers. For example, on November 3, PASA held a tabling event that allowed students to get insight as to what the club is all about. While it’s unclear where the fundraiser money will specifically go at this time, Stopler said that the funds from the events will go to charities that focus on child sexual abuse.
In terms of reception from the Adelphi community, the club has gotten mostly positive responses despite being relatively new. One goal that Lauther has with PASA is to promote the club to a wider audience.
“Since we just started this semester, people don’t really know about us at all,” Lauther said. For those who are aware of PASA, they have praised the work that the club has done. Some groups that know about PASA include Phi Mu, The South Asian Student Association and close friends of club members.
PASA is an important club not only for the Adelphi community, but for the wider Long Island community as well. With Adelphi, PASA’s fundraising efforts will allow more students to learn about their cause. PASA will be able to educate people beyond the AU campus about the dangers of sexual abuse and how to report it.
To learn more about Panthers Against Sexual Abuse, contact them on Instagram at @adelphipasa.