Wellesley Alum is the First Native Woman to Graduate Summa Cum Laude

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Kat and I sat down to talk about her experience as a leader in the Wellesley chapter of SAAFE (Sexual Assault Awareness for Everyone). Kat has taken on a variety of initiatives and been involved at Wellesley in various forms, through SAAFE. For example, she has organized protests, programs, and lectures to educate the community on how to recognize, prevent, and handle cases of sexual assault, but has also teamed up with the administration to help search for and hire Wellesley’s new Title IX coordinator. She has participated in and led workshops on topics such as bystander practice, consent, and relationship abuse. Her range of experience has allowed her to explore sexual assault awareness and education through one-on-one interactions, and through organizing and social media within the Wellesley community.

One of the key points of our discussion is the relationship between sexual assault awareness efforts and the media. Kat criticizes the mainstream media for being untrustworthy and stereotypical in its portrayal of sexual assault incidents and cases by playing into popular conceptions of what sexual assault is, and who the victims and perpetrators can or cannot be. Kat shows appreciation for smaller forms of social media, asserting that platforms like Facebook have helped SAAFE “get their name and their image out there” and to interact with a wider audience of people. Simultaneously, she recognizes some of the drawbacks of social media – firstly, she says, posting on social media sometimes requires abandoning discussion of the complexities of sexual assault issues; secondly, she describes the echo-chamber effect, in which many of the same stories or same kinds of stories circulate in any one person’s feed, and diversity of experiences and stories is so often neglected. Despite these drawbacks, SAAFE has run successful media campaigns – their most recent one drew attention to qualities and practices of healthy and safe relationships, and drew both attention and appreciation from the community.

One of SAAFE’s biggest challenges is establishing institutional memory, and combatting the disorganization that can come with high turnover rates in membership. “It’s a rebirthing process” she says when describing the changes that come whenever students graduate, but she is confident that they are doing a better job of educating and training younger members to carry on SAAFE’s work and legacies.

We talked a little bit about Kat’s involvement in other forms of activism as well, such as her more recent investment in connecting with the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) community in Boston and attending events and workshops aimed at educating and training AAPI to combat anti-blackness in their own communities and families and uplifting our black siblings. Kat says that social media was vital in her ability to find these events and is still key for communicating with the Boston AAPI community and that people that she’s met through her experiences there. Through these connections, she learns about and attends a variety of protests, marches, and sit-ins as well.

After graduation, Kat will be teaching middle school and high school English on a Lakota reservation in South Dakota. She recognizes that she will be an outsider in a very small community, and says that while any efforts to take on social justice or activist could be perceived as an intrusion, she hopes to “inadvertently” do some work on sexual assault awareness through the education system. When I asked Kat about what she would want to see accomplished in 2030, she detailed a hope in which some of her students would go to college and come back to the reservation to give back to their community, as many people who leave reservations for opportunities in business or education rarely come back. She is unsure, though – “I don’t have a concept of success, because I don’t even know what’s going to happen in the next two years,” she says.

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(pictured above: Kat makes prints and sells them, all profits go towards the Standing Rock reservation!)

link to interview:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/ttmzj593yomszr1/kat%20SAAFE%20interview.wav?dl=0

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