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Conboy, Martinez Camacho hold conversation on sexual assault prevention, advocacy

Editor’s note: This story includes mentions of sexual assault. A list of sexual assault reporting options and on-campus resources can be found on the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross websites.

Saint Mary’s president Katie Conboy and student body president Angela Martinez Camacho led a conversation with members of the Saint Mary’s community Tuesday in Carroll Auditorium, discussing sexual violence prevention, response and survivor support. 

Vice president for student enrollment and engagement Lori Johnson began the event with opening remarks about the event’s goals and structure. She said it would feature an extended segment where students could ask questions, share personal stories and suggest improvements for the College in a confidential setting.

Johnson also praised the students in the audience for their collective work in addressing the topic of sexual assault.

“I’m so pleased that we’re having this conversation in public,” Johnson said. “Your generation has just done this exceptional job of the really hard and courageous work of bringing these conversations into the public where they belong, helping to reduce stigma.”

In her opening statement, Conboy said she first thought to host the event Friday morning after reading The Observer’s editorial, which called tri-campus leaders to “not only promote their resources appropriately but earn back trust.”

“When I read the editorial of The Observer of that morning, it was for me really a call to action… that we have an issue in our tri-campus community and that the presidents of the three colleges need to do more to listen to their own students,” Conboy said.

The conversation, Conboy said, aimed to raise dialogue and collect direct feedback from students.

“This is a place where you should feel that when something isn’t working for you, you can bring it forward to your administration and we will be responsive to that,” Conboy said. She added that she wanted to learn more about “how we can do better, what is working, what is not working.”

Conboy also acknowledged that she was aware of recent developments on social media regarding student reports of sexual assault, despite not being able to discuss specific cases.

“I’ve also been aware and brought up to speed on the social media that has been a source for some of our students and students from the other colleges to start telling their own stories,” she said. 

Martinez Camacho said she didn’t want her term as student body president to end without having sparked progress in combatting sexual violence. By openly conversing with the Saint Mary’s community, she said, campus leaders could improve the College’s advocacy system.

“This is an effort that involves all parties, so let’s make it happen,” she said.

Following the opening statements, the conversation opened to the audience and students shared personal experiences, asked questions and offered recommendations on how to better handle the problem of sexual violence in the tri-campus.

After the event, Conboy told The Observer that she felt the event was successful because of the input from the students who spoke in the conversation. 

“There were concrete suggestions that students gave us that are not hard to implement,” she said. “We just need to do it quickly and make it our focus.”

Contact Liam Price at lprice3@nd.edu

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