Torrey DeVitto participated in SafeBAE’s Summer Activist Institute at Southern Maine Community College. Courtesy Photo/SafeBAE’s Summer Activist Institute Press Deck

SOUTH PORTLAND — Actress and philanthropist Torrey DeVitto participated in SafeBAE’s Summer Activist Institute at Southern Maine Community College during the last week of June.

The Summer Activist Institute brought in high school students involved in sexual violence prevention and consent education activism.  

Students from 14 states participated in activist leadership training as sexual assault prevention advocates. They had guest speakers from activist organizations throughout the United States, participants then worked in breakout sessions to envision their ideas for continuing activism work during the school year, and each student had help and support creating a proposal to submit to SafeBAE for grant funding for their work in the school year ahead.   

Shael Norris, the founding executive director at SafeBAE, said that she felt like the next frontier of prevention work was middle school and high school. She said so much other work had been done at college campuses and community settings but never in the middle and high school classrooms. Norris said they surveyed the middle and high school students to gage their level of health and sexual education, and almost none of them received an education in those areas. She said health and sexual education was one of the biggest things scraped from most schools’ curriculum during COVID.  

“We were founded in New England, and a lot of the time when we are looking to do the pilot new program, we do it in our backyard to sort of ease collaborative partners, and a lot of our grants are New England based, we have a grant from the Department of Health in Rhode Island, another grant with a Maine foundation called Maine Health Access,” said Norris. “We felt it was appropriate to have the event in our backyard. It exceeded our expectations in every way. We had board members fly in to witness some sessions and meet the kids.’

“One of the pieces of the Summer Institute is not just what happens there. They each have left the institute prepared and in the process of writing a proposal to give to us in the next month or month and a half so that we can grant them money to continue to work in their community. Our mission, youth leadership, is always to end sexual violence. To see that vision come to life, you have to grant them money, and you have to trust them with their vision and how that comes to life.”  


“Chicago Med” and “Pretty Little Liar” actress Torrey DeVitto serves on the board of directors for SafeBAE, a survivor-founded, student-led national organization whose mission is to end sexual assault among middle and high school students.  

“We support survivors, and we go to schools where we talk to kids about sexual consent and assault, and they can make groups in their own schools,” said DeVitto. “We like to say that our information is like a buffet; you could learn anything and take away from it, from bystander intervention to how to change policies in your school. There is so much in our curriculum that is needed for these kids.

“When I got involved, I was just super angry after watching the film ‘Audrie & Daisy’), and I contacted them and asked what can I do to support you guys; I want to be involved as much as you’ll have me, but I don’t just want to send a tweet, I want to go to these schools and talk to kids with you because it really hit me personally in a way where I felt like I grew up in a generation where it was the whole boys will be boys and if someone slaps you on the behind it is a compliment, that kind of thing, and after learning more about sexual assault in my t20s, I started realizing all of the things that ever happened to me that I kind of had to grapple with as an adult and feel sad that my younger self didn’t have somebody that gave me this information.”  

During her time on the board with SafeBAE, DeVitto has used her platform to raise awareness for sexual assault and open the conversation up for more youth to come together in their community to stop sexual assault.  

SafeBAE was co-founded in 2015 when sexual assault survivors and their families came together to film the Netflix documentary “Audrie & Daisy.” The documentary was intended to spread awareness of teenage assaults and how technology can amplify their ramifications. SafeBAE is currently the only organization of our kind in the country.  

Daisy Coleman, Jada Smith, Ella Fairon, and Charlie Coleman have spoken about their sexual assaults. According to the organization, Daisy never made it through the rest of the filming, passing away unexpectedly on Aug. 4, 2020.


DeVitto said that the average age of kids becoming sexually active is during middle school. They knew someone needed to be talking to this age group, so they met with Shael and created SafeBAE together.  

“I think it was probably within the first year or year after they started that I was watching the film, and I was so deeply moved and enraged by what I had seen of how the system failed these young girls,” said DeVitto. “What people don’t realize is that you put these stories out there, and then the movie, in my opinion, ties it up in a way and makes it look like the girls kind of got justice, so they are fine, and I think that what people don’t realize is that healing for survivors is a lifetime thing it is not something that just goes away. ”  

Having suffered sexual assaults in high school, the co-founders of SafeBAE became driven activists and peer-educators and had been building a team of high school activists around the country. As a national peer-to-peer organization, they help promote culture change by giving teens the tools to become activists and shift school culture through raising awareness about dating violence, sexual harassment and assault, affirmative consent, safe bystander intervention, survivor care, and their rights under Title IX.  

“I think ultimately from how crucial this issue is, a lot of us are thinking post-COVID about our kids going back to school and truly the mental health crisis they are facing,” said Norris. “When you look at mental health as a crisis issue like we are right now, particularly among kids post-COVID who missed many social and emotional development years in their socialization. I think now is an urgent time for adults, parents, and anyone … for kids or the future, in general, need to be focusing their attention on helping kids navigate any mental health issues. I think that the frontline of that is relationship health.”  

The organization is currently looking for donations in hopes to reach its goal of training 1,000 students in 2022 and 2023. To donate or get involved, visit


Comments are not available on this story.