Students honor sexual assault victims

By Caitlyn Morral

[Photos courtesy of Bryce Spadafora]

For some students at St. Bonaventure University, April is more than just the stressful month before the impending doom of finals. It’s about raising sexual assault awareness, one teal ribbon at a time.

April has been named Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The newly revived club at Bonaventure, “SBU 4 Equality,” is capitalizing on SAAM through its “Awareness, Education, Solidarity” campaign, an initiative to promote sexual assault awareness in the campus community.  On Wednesday, April 26, the club hosted a rally to commemorate those who have been affected by sexual violence.

Before it was SBU 4 Equality, the club was known as Voices. Hannah Vail, senior and former president of Voices, says that the club had struggled in the past, but she is glad to see it thriving now.

“The original aim of Voices was to increase awareness of and promote education about sexual violence,” said Vail. “As I became president, we looked to change our brand a bit and more actively promote gender equality. We attempted to re-charter the group, calling it PAGE (Promoting Acceptance for Gender Equality), but we unfortunately had little support for the rebranding. It seems that SBU 4 Equality is looking to turn back to sexual assault awareness again, and I wish them luck!”

The rally kicked off with an introduction from a philosophy professor at Bonaventure, Dr. Bob Amico. Amico discussed the importance of promoting against sexual violence, and the importance of going against it as a community.

Dr. Bob Amico introduced the program, encouraging students to work together as a community.

Democratic congressional candidate John Plumb was scheduled to host a lecture at 7:30 p.m. in Walsh Auditorium. As a strong advocate against sexual assault himself, Plumb cancelled his program and chose to show his support and speak at the rally instead.

Daniela Carrasco, sophomore and member of SBU 4 Equality, followed Plumb with a reading of sexual assault safety tips for Bonaventure’s Spring Weekend, which will take place from Thursday, April 28 through Saturday, April 30. The general safety guidelines for students include receiving affirmative consent, using the buddy system, intervening if someone is a bystander and alerting Safety and Security or the police for further assistance when necessary.

Following Carrasco, Juliette Bauer, sophomore and president of SBU 4 Equality, read a letter that will be going to Safety and Security as the congregation lit their candles for a moment of silence in honor of victims of sexual violence. In the week leading up to the event, students and faculty members were given the chance to sign candle holders used in the ceremony that doubled as a pledge against sexual assault.

Bauer stressed the importance of the cause, and why awareness needs to be spread on a global scale.

“I think that our culture spends a lot of time telling young people that because they are not rich, experienced, white or male, that they cannot make a difference,” said Bauer. “I want to convince people that that is an outright lie. We can change things. Things can change, and we can make them.”

Junior Gabby Hurley lit a candle in honor of sexual assault victims.

In terms of plans for the future of SBU 4 Equality, Bauer says to look out for next semester.

“At the start of the semester, we are actually going to have a Women in Leadership campaign,” Bauer said. “Then, during the first few months of the next semester, we are going to hold different activities for each group of women in leadership. We think it will be an amazing experience for freshmen, both male and female, to see women in positions of power and also to network!”

Over 70 people were in attendance at the rally, and 30 of them signed the campaign letter that will be going to the Safety and Security department. Students who missed out will have the opportunity to sign the campaign on both Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29 in the Reilly Center.

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