Supporting survivors in the era of #MeToo: Encouraging organization, education

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COURTESY PHOTO // WM.EDU

Months after coming forward with allegations of sexual assault by then-Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford made headlines again this week by releasing a statement regarding a GoFundMe page which raised well over $600,000 in Ford’s name. Ford announced the dedication of the remaining funds to assault survivors, showing solidarity with others who have survived similar traumatic events in their lives.

In the #MeToo era, it has become more important than ever to support survivors of sexual violence, especially on college campuses. Studies published by Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network show that women aged 18-24 are at a high risk of becoming victims of sexual violence. Additionally, male college students aged 18-24 are at a significantly higher risk of being victims of rape or sexual assault than non-students of the same age.

The concept of support for a community of survivors exists beyond the stories that make it to the news cycle. Advocacy, awareness and solutions exist right here on the College of William and Mary’s campus. Well-regarded as a very politically active population, students at the College and specific student organizations also place great emphasis on sexual assault prevention and healthy-relationship advocacy. Such organizations include Someone You Know, HOPE and 16(IX)3.

While different in their strategies, each of these student-run organizations motivates justice-minded individuals to act as advocates, educators, supporters and role models of behavior for the rest of the campus community. Through educational initiatives, peer-outreach programs, fundraisers and guest speakers, students involved in these organizations aim to create a healthier, safer campus.

This is the second year that members of Someone You Know have facilitated a fundraiser for survivors called Cinnamon Rolls for Survivors, using delicious, handmade treats as tools to fundraise for an essential cause.

As of the day of the fundraiser, over 250 individuals responded as interested or going on the Facebook page for the event, showing the popularity among students and support for such an important beneficiary. The members also defy many stereotypes regarding what an advocate looks like, as many are members of various Fraternity and Sorority Life organizations at the College.

The issue of campus sexual violence and unhealthy relationships stems directly from the behavior and attitudes of students enrolled here and at every college in the country.

As an issue created primarily by students, these student-led initiatives intended to address the epidemic are essential for finding a comprehensive solution.

The bravery of women like Ford and the example she set in supporting other survivors has been a very present force at the College thanks in large part to our student-run organizations.

Email Olivia Koenig at ojkoenig@email.wm.edu