New campaign encourages becoming a better bystander

Posters of UAA students, faculty, staff and community members sporting new ink have been posted across campus. The photos include a portrait of an individual with motivating, encouraging words like “we will not stand by” and “I believe you” written in black marker on their arms, chest or hands. These posters are a part of a new campaign called Seawolves Speak Up.

The Seawolves Speak Up campaign was launched at the beginning of the semester by UAA’s Student Health and Counseling Center and aims to encourage the UAA community to become active bystanders by speaking up and intervening when they see something wrong. This includes noticing harassment, bullying, mental health issues, issues within friendships or romantic relationships, sexual violence or any other similar situation.

Hannah Guzzi is the health promotion specialist with UAA’s Student Health and Counseling Center. While the above issues are important to recognize and speak up in, she said the emphasis of the campaign is focusing on sexual violence prevention.

“[We’re] making sure we’re stepping in when things don’t look right, when people are arguing … making sure people are safe and removed from situations that are kind of escalating, while adding to the conversation of, ‘what is consent?’ in a sexual relationship and how do we educate people on that,” Guzzi said.

Caroline Kurgat photographed for the Seawolves Speak Up campaign.
Barbara Sikvayugak photographed for the Seawolves Speak Up campaign.
Rebeca Maseda Garcia photographed for the Seawolves Speak Up campaign.

The campaign started gaining buzz from students noticing the posters of their classmates and professors. The individuals on the posters were all specifically invited for the campaign’s photo shoot last semester, or, for students, after being recommended by someone in their department.

“When we were doing the photo shoot, it was cool that everyone was excited but I was like ‘this is weird to be excited about’ with it being about dating violence and sexual assault. But at the same time, it is exciting because you see how many people care and how many people it’s affected,” Kyra McKay said. “It really did make you feel like you’re not alone and this is a community.”

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McKay is the employee wellness practicum coordinator in UAA’s department of health, physical education and recreation.

UAA’s Dating Violence Sexual Assault Coalition for Change, or DVSA, is a part of the campaign and is a resource for students to get involved and informed. Their website, uaa.alaska.edu/seawolvesspeakup, contains resources available to students if they need to file an incident, learn more about the Student Health and Counseling Center or Center for Advocacy, Relationships, and Sexual Violence and other ways to become involved in trainings, workshops and more.

“You don’t have to be this big superhero, you don’t have to have this big superhero moment, there are very small things you can to do intervene or just let someone know that you’re there as a resource, or as support, or as an ally to them,” Bridget Coffou, prevention and education coordinator for Equity and Compliance, said.

Quentin Simeon photographed for the Seawolves Speak Up campaign.
Jacob Powell photographed for the Seawolves Speak Up campaign.
Devan Hawkins photographed for the Seawolves Speak Up campaign.
Samuel Wilson photographed for the Seawolves Speak Up campaign.

Upcoming events through DVSA include their women’s self-defense classes held in February, March and April and monthly DVSA meetings. Visit their website for dates and times, as well as additional information and events.

The Seawolves Speak Up campaign is new to campus, but the hope is for it to have lasting effects.

“I think long term, we’d definitely like to see this as the goal of when [students] come to UAA, like this is the culture you’re going to be a part of,” Guzzi said. “We’re accepting of anyone and everyone and we’re looking out for each other.”