April is the focal point of social media campaigns and organized campus events recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Teal ribbons can be seen across Michigan State University’s campus, whether on student backpacks or wrapped around trees, in light of the Larry Nassar scandal.
April, however, gave the teal-colored ribbons more impact. This is a month of action for many organizations and businesses, including the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.
The credit union was working not only to help raise awareness, but to bring healing to those affected by sexual violence in the “It All Adds Up” campaign. This gave anyone with a Michigan State University Federal Credit Union debit or credit card the opportunity to enroll in the campaign simply by “opting in” online. Once enrolled, each member’s transaction during April would direct a one-cent donation from the credit union to both MSU Safe Place and the MSU Sexual Assault Program.
Erica Schmittdiel, advocacy coordinator for MSU Safe Place, said its program and the MSU credit union have had a relationship for years. When MSU Safe Place was approached to be a recipient of the campaign’s funds, organizers suggested that the credit union should include the MSU Sexual Assault Program. Money raised throughout April is crucial to changing the lives of those affected by sexual violence, but Schmittdiel said while every little bit counts, the ultimate goal isn’t a dollar amount—it is a change in the community.
“I’m just hoping that with any organization and with every individual that gets involved in raising awareness, that we really do create a culture change around these issues, and acknowledge that it’s not just something that happens to other people,” she said. “It is something that happens to the people that we know and that we love, and it could happen to us. We all need to be part of the solution.”
This is a first-time partnership for the MSU Sexual Assault Program. Tana Fedewa, the director of the MSU Sexual Assault Program said the funding will likely allow the program to help cover emergency expenses for survivors. Fedewa said this campaign shows progress in the university and how it handles sexual violence.
“I think many people are looking for ways to get involved and to show their support,” Fedewa said. “This campaign gives people a simple and concrete way to be involved and to provide financial support to programs like ours. We hope that the MSU community remains committed to engaging in dialog and in actions related to ending sexual violence.”
Deidre Davis, chief marketing officer for Michigan State Federal Credit Union, said that in its first campaign last November, it raised nearly $5,000 for Ele’s Place, a center helping children and teens cope with grief. She said that when the credit union was discussing this year’s campaign, it saw value in April based on the campus attitude at MSU after the Nassar trial. Just two days after announcing the start of the campaign, more than 13,000 of the credit union’s members “opted in” to support this movement.
“I hope it will bring awareness,” Davis said. “I do think that whether intentional or not — but I believe unintentionally — our community, or maybe every community, doesn’t necessarily know what various issues are. So, I think that just bringing the entire Sexual Assault Awareness Month to light, and doing this in a way that it’s through something that people are already doing (using their debit or credit card), it gets conversations started. Awareness is what I would say our number one goal is.”
Schmittdiel, Fedewa and Davis agreed that the meaning matters more than the money. Feweda said she is most excited by this year’s theme: “Embrace your voice.” With countless survivors living right on MSU’s campus, Fedewa hopes April’s campaign will remind students and community members of the issue’s importance. The goal, Fedewa said, is to ultimately inspire others to be involved in social change.
To many, this was more than a campaign. While this wasn’t the first year it had been done, it was possibly the most important year. It represented how easy it was to initiate change. With the swipe of a card, members could help survivors receive the care they needed to move forward. More broadly, though, Fedewa and Schmittdiel said that the swipe of a card would be a step toward altering how society reacts to sexual violence. They said sexual assault should not be a taboo subject. The campaign, as Davis said, was just one way to get people talking.