By Hayley Vanstrum
Massachusetts-based sex educator and relationship therapist Yana Tallon-Hicks kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month at New College with her talk, Communication Skills for Healthy Sex and Relationships. The talk focused on harmful portrayals of sex in the media and abstinence-only sex education, and how to form healthier views of sex and relationships in one’s own life.
Tallon-Hicks encouraged input from the audience throughout the presentation, and she gave students space to speak with her and each other about consent, attachment styles, conflict, empathy, and clear communication. Students worked through exercises in small groups, acting out how they would respond when difficult situations arose in relationships. Tallon-Hicks encouraged participants to practicing active listening and respecting the boundaries others set for themselves. She provided valuable, real-life advice that people can use to navigate all interpersonal relationships, whether platonic or romantic.
New College’s SAAM committee chose to host Tallon-Hicks because of her trauma-informed, pleasure-positive perspective when it comes to speaking about healthy relationships. Even though this workshop was not specifically about sexual assault, SAAM coordinator Robyn Manning-Samuels stressed that the principles Tallon-Hicks promotes can help people heal after an assault.
“Victim/survivors are also people who will go on to maybe have relationships and or have sex or live with someone,” said Manning-Samuels, “and we talk less about how to integrate those things into a life post a traumatic event.I think it’s important to have a trauma-informed presenter educate on some of those skills and ideas.”
SAAM is a monthlong, student-led, campuswide initiative that happens every April. It raises awareness concerning sexual assault and prevention and builds support systems for survivors.
“At NCF, where students have a lot of programming freedom, I think it’s essential that they lead the conversation in what would make them feel seen, heard, and validated,” Manning-Samuels emphasized.
For a full list of Sexual Assault Awareness Month events, visit the New College News event calendar https://news.ncf.edu/events/.
— Hayley Vanstrum is an intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing.