Saint Mary’s Unites Against Recent Sexual Assaults
Tue, 2011-10-11 16:19
More than 100 Saint Mary’s students, faculty and staff members came together at a lunchtime rally Wednesday to deliver the message that sexual assault will not be tolerated at the college.
“As a campus we don’t tolerate this kind of thing. We look out for each other and we respect each other,” said Gillian Cutshaw, SMC’s sexual assault awareness coordinator.
The rally was organized by junior Jennie Cruz and senior Angie Torres after two recent allegations of sexual assaults involving students at Saint Mary’s. Dozens of speakers expressed their solidarity and their determination to stop the violence. Many emphasized that one of the central values of Saint Mary’s is respect for all persons.
“Saint Mary’s College is a safe place. It is our home. If anyone on campus is injured, we are all injured,” said Reid Davis, an adjunct professor in the Performing Arts Department. Then he led the crowd in a chant of “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Sharon Sobotta, director of the campus Women’s Resource Center, recalled that when she came to the campus nine years ago, shortly after a series of protests over sexual assaults, there were fewer resources for victims of sexual violence and less solidarity around the issue.
“This time things are a lot different,” she said. “It’s not just students protesting – it’s staff, faculty and students – everybody is coming together to say ‘no.’ ”
After those protests, the college instituted a number of reforms. Among them were the creation of a full-time sexual assault awareness coordinator and a “blue light” network that helps students call for help in case of an emergency.
More recently, Sobotta said, the Women’s Resource Center has provided a “confidential resource” position, which has “empowered victims to come forward, ” and has created the Male Ally Program, which enlists male students to educate the campus community about the need for respect and how gender-based violence affects men negatively.
Frank Martinez, a senior in the Male Ally Program, said with emotion that the rally made him think of his mother, “a hard-working woman who was the victim of sexual violence.” He criticized the derogatory terms used in our culture to devalue women and said, “I challenge all the men on campus to educate themselves and change their vocabulary.”
Near the end of the rally, SMC student Taylor Brown climbed up on the speakers’ platform and said, “Seeing how the Saint Mary’s community can come together and speak out about such a controversial issue makes me proud. It makes me feel like I made the right choice in coming here.”