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'It Takes All Of Us': Sexual Assault Awareness Advocate Builds Community To Support Survivors In Milwaukee

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April is sexual assault awareness month and teal is used to symbolize the effort to support survivors and heal from sexual assault.

This April marks the 20th sexual assault awareness month. Every two minutes in the United States, another person becomes a victim of sexual assault.

Since 2009, TeamTeal365 and founder Sam Collier has been working in Milwaukee to educate, advocate for and support survivors of sexual assault.

Collier is a survivor of sexual violence. She started writing op-eds for the MATC student newspaper about the culture around sexual violence and as she looked around Milwaukee, she says she couldn’t find anyone trying to build a support community for survivors. So, Collier started TeamTeal365.

“I started because I just never saw it and I wanted people to feel a part of something,” she says.

That feeling of community starts with the name TeamTeal365. Collier says she wanted to let people know that by interacting with the organization, they wouldn’t be alone for a single day. She incorporated the color teal is a symbol of sexual assault awareness.

As a Black person and as a woman, Collier says she was born into a cycle of violence. That’s why, she says, she committed to making her community an inclusive space because she recognizes that cycles of violence affect people in different ways and she wants to be able to be there for anyone who needs support.

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Photo courtesy of TeamTeal365
Samantha Collier created Paint the City Teal Day in 2015 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness month. This year, Mayor Tom Barrett officially proclaimed April 2, 2021 as Paint the City Teal Day, and several Milwaukee buildings and landmarks lit up in teal including the Hoan Bridge.

“I wanted to change the narrative — for my legacy, for my children to come, for my community to know that we can be resilient too, and we don’t always have to look like what we’ve been through,” she says.

Collier is mindful that the pandemic has isolated more people and trapped some at home with abusers. TeamTeal365 has worked to keep in contact with people virtually and to reduce feelings of isolation, because, she says, it’s important not to keep your emotions bottled up inside your head. Even if a survivor doesn’t feel comfortable talking with someone else about their experience, Collier recommends expressing those thoughts in some way.

“Maybe try writing or speaking into your phone instead of keeping all those thoughts inside,” she says.

As people pay more attention to the issue of sexual violence, Collier says more time and resources need to be spent on why people commit assaults in the first place. With the overwhelming number of sexual assault perpetrators being men, she says other men need to step up and help support survivors.

“We need male presence in this mission work, we need male conversation, we need males talking with males in their own healing. With any great thing, it takes all of us, you know, even the allies of us,” she says.

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.