#BelieveSurvivors emphasizes relief of belief

Photo courtesy of Maryn McCarty | Seniors Maryn McCarty (left) and Lauren Gierla (right) stand with guest speaker Abby Honold (center) at the Oct. 29 #BelieveSurvivors event. Honold shared her own experience with sexual assault in college at the event.

In an effort to continue sexual assault prevention and education on campus, BRAVE Peer Educators (BRAVE), in coordination with Student Activities Counil and the Student Government Association (SGA), held a #BelieveSurvivors event on Oct. 29 in Kennedy Auditorium.

The event featured keynote speaker Abby Honold, a former student at the University of Minnesota, who shared the story of her own assault and the additional weight that can be added to survivors’ shoulders when they are not believed or are even shamed for coming forward.

SGA Senator and BRAVE Peer Educator Maryn McCarty also spoke about misconceptions surrounding sexual assault as well as outlets for reporting on campus.

Attendees were also encouraged to sign a banner to support Xavier’s commitment to preventing sexual assault.

“When survivors share their stories, it has a positive impact, regardless of what ends up happening within the system,” Title IX Officer Kate Lawson said. “…It’s going to take a collective effort of student-led groups working alongside Xavier to help advance the continuing cultural shift.”

Lawson expressed hope for this cultural shift but added that she realizes more societal education is necessary.

“In general spaces in our society, very often, if the person who’s being disclosed to hasn’t intentionally un-learned all the mythology and misinformation about who sexual assault happens to and how and why and what the reality is, then we really fall back on stereotypes,” Lawson said.

She also commended the work being done by BRAVE on campus.

“I think people are starting to realize that BRAVE exists now,” Lawson said. “We’ve had more events on campus and collaborated with more student clubs.”

BRAVE, which stands for “Believe, Reclaim, Advocate, Visualize, Empower,” was established in 2016 within the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and aims to prevent gender-based violence through peer education, workshops and events to help raise awareness. However, the program isn’t confined to extracurriculars.

“We’ve also expanded this year by about 10 students, so we’ve been able to reach out to more theology classes about conducting workshops,” McCarty said.

BRAVE currently conducts two workshops. The first has been around since the program’s inception and is called “Healthy Relationships.” Peer educators go over positive and negative behaviors in a relationship and conduct an interactive exercise.

The second workshop, called “Consent Culture,” involves the educators going through definitions of rape versus sexual assault, explaining reporting processes through Title IX and holding open conversations about how to improve the culture on campus.

As more students become aware and involved in sexual assault prevention programs, Xavier has seen reporting rates go up. This has led to the need for an additional position within the Title IX Office to help foster educational outreach and explore additional sexual assault prevention avenues, Lawson said.

The #BelieveSurvivors event comes on the heels of the announcement of the new Title IX Program Director position to help increase outreach in prevention and education of gender-based violence across campus.

“I think it will be helpful to have someone that just works with education and prevention,” McCarty said of the new position. “…I know (Lawson) has her hands full with increased reporting, so it’ll be exciting from the education and outreach perspective to have additional collaboration.”

The university is currently in the process of conducting phone interviews for the position and will soon begin on-campus interviews. Lawson said she anticipates these interviews will consist of half-day sessions and will include opportunities for students to meet the candidates.

By: Devin Luginbill | Staff Writer