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Sexual assault activists to speak at SMC, ND, IUSB

| Thursday, September 10, 2015

Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, co-founders of the national organization End Rape on Campus, are coming to Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) for a series of appearances and discussions on sexual assault and activism on college campuses. Clark and Pino filed a federal complaint with the Department of Education against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for violations of Title IX and the Clery Act while they were students there and were also featured prominently in the recent documentary “The Hunting Ground.”

Abby Palko, associate director of the Notre Dame’s gender studies program, said Saint Mary’s faculty spearheaded the initiative to get the women to appear at the three universities.

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Stacy Davis, chair of gender and women’s studies, contacted me and Mary Kearney [director of the gender studies program] here at Notre Dame, as well as April Lidinsky, director of women’s and gender studies at IUSB,” Palko said. “She asked if we would be interested in having them talk on our campuses, and of course we said yes.”

Each school is hosting a different kind of event, ranging from lectures to discussions to question and answer sessions, Palko said.

“At Saint Mary’s, Stacy wanted a big public lecture. We each decided what was most needed for our students,” she said. “We wanted for Notre Dame, and students in particular, to hear what it was like to ​take on the challenge of standing up for their rights and their safety, to challenge institutional procedures that did not protect them, to ​go through the process of filing a complaint with the federal government.”

Palko said Clark and Pino can bring a relatable perspective to the campus discussions on sexual assault because of their experiences as students.

“One of the reasons Mary and I are so excited for them to come is because they were college students just like you,” she said. “We think Annie and Andrea are great models for speaking up even when there is social, professional or interpersonal risk to standing up, and speaking up, and saying that this is not okay.”

Clark and Pino will be leading a discussion and a question and answer session at Legends on Friday at noon, Palko said. They will be delivering a lecture at Saint Mary’s on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Madeleva Hall and a discussion at IUSB on Friday at 2 p.m. 

“The talk will be 20 to 25 minutes, and then there will be time for discussions and questions,” she said. “We want students to get ideas and practical tips for dealing with the issue of sexual assault, so they feel more empowered. … We welcome anybody anticipating a fantastic conversation.”

Speaking on sexual assault activism at Notre Dame, Palko said she believes students are still learning how to be active bystanders.

“I think Notre Dame students have an enormous passion for taking on social justice issues but are not sure what to do when it comes to sexual assault,” she said.

Sexual assault is an issue that demands response from every member of the campus community, Palko said.

“We want to make the Notre Dame language of ‘We’re a family’ even more real,” she said. “Everyone should say, ‘Not another person on this campus should be sexually assaulted.’”

While faculty and staff can’t be active bystanders at parties the way students can, Palko said, they can contribute to ending sexual assault by emphasizing the seriousness of the issue in their classrooms.

“Over the summer we worked with the Title IX coordinator and the directors of undergraduate studies,” she said. “One of the suggestions we’ve made is putting on syllabi a note about the part in Title IX about confidential resources and non-confidential resources. We all put on the honor code, the anti-plagiarism pledge, but we can do it too with sexual assault resources, as a signal to students that this is just as important.”

Palko said although sexual assault is not a new issue at Notre Dame, there is now an increasing willingness and comfort in reporting. Ending sexual assault on college campuses is difficult, she said.

“It’s so hard to talk about sexual assault on college campuses as if it’s all the same — because we’re not all the same. With Notre Dame, we have Saint Mary’s across the street and there are fraught relationships there,” she said. “The parietals, single sex dorms, off campus culture and Catholic nature of the school are all characteristics that make Notre Dame unique.”


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About Catherine Owers

Senior News Writer Catherine Owers is a senior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is studying English and Theology.

Contact Catherine