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Campus heightens assault awareness

Marisa Iati | Monday, February 21, 2011

Students can learn about sexual assault prevention and campus resources as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, which began Sunday and will continue until next Sunday.

Elizabeth Moriarty, assistant director of the Gender Relations Center, said the week raises awareness of rape and sexual assault in the Notre Dame community, shows support for survivors and highlights education and prevention efforts on campus.

“We want to give [students] ideas about how we can prevent rape and sexual assault from happening and give hope to people that have been victimized,” Moriarty said. “There is a community that wants to help them in their healing process.”

Moriarty said the campus needs to acknowledge sexual assault and demonstrate care and concern.

The Gender Relations Center organizes Sexual Assault Awareness Week as part of its violence prevention initiative, Moriarty said. The Center recruits student government, clubs and organizations, athletic teams and academic departments to co-sponsor events.

“A lot of times it’s a private and internal issue that people deal with,” Moriarty said. “Trying to increase understanding of that is one of the main issues of the week.”

The Gender Relations Center will host a Mass of Healing in Dillon Hall Wednesday. This is the first year that Sexual Assault Awareness Week has included a Mass at which the liturgy is devoted to healing from rape and sexual assault. Victims may choose to receive the Anointing of the Sick at this Mass.

Take Back the Night will not be part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week this year, Moriarty said. This event includes a march as a public statement against sexual assault, a speak-out for people to tell their stories and a public gathering celebrating that people can join together in the fight against sexual assault. Take Back the Night will be April 28 this year.

Moriarty said another important difference this year is the Gender Relations Center’s effort to involve other campus groups in the events.

“We’re really trying to be more intentional about reaching out to other departments and student groups to get them involved [and] to try to make this a campus initiative instead of just a Gender Relations Center initiative,” Moriarty said.

Sunday, the liturgies in campus Masses will focus on healing from sexual violence.

On Tuesday, the Gender Relations Center will host the annual A Time to Heal Dinner at which community members can discuss issues related to sexual assault.

“A Time to Heal [is] a unique opportunity for people to hear faculty, students and staff speak about healing from sexual assault from their own perspectives” Moriarty said. “Talking about rape and sexual assault can be very challenging. [A Time to Heal is] people having a conversation sitting around the dinner table. In the Christian community, that’s a pretty important metaphor.”

Senior Mariah McGrogan is co-chair of the student government Gender Issues Committee. She was heavily involved in planning Sexual Assault Awareness Week and will speak at the A Time to Heal Dinner.

“I’m going to be talking about how people can overcome what is sometimes awkward about talking about sexual assault in order to take an active role in preventing it,” McGrogan said. “I think the communal aspect is very important in something like a dinner for A Time to Heal.”

McGrogan helped plan the student government initiatives of Sexual Assault Awareness Week. These events include a self-defense class, T-shirt distributions and the You Are Not Alone Reception.

The You Are Not Alone Reception is an initiative in which student organizations, residence halls, departments and offices will create quilt squares to say Notre Dame will not stand for sexual assault, McGrogan said. These squares will become part of a quilt that McGrogan hopes will be complete by the Gender Relations Center’s Festival on the Quad on the last day of classes.

McGrogan said she hopes Sexual Assault Awareness Week will enable survivors of sexual violence to gain a sense of community and take a step in their healing processes. She also hopes students that have not been directly affected by sexual assault will gain a better understanding of how sexual assault affects the Notre Dame community.

Moriarty said students and faculty are working to make Notre Dame a safer place.

“The good news is that we have the power to make a difference, to stop these things from happening and to better support those who have survived rape and sexual assault,” Moriarty said. “I hope that [survivors] know that there are people here that want to help them … so they know they’re not alone.”