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Saint Mary’s holds second annual ‘Raise Your Voice Symposium’

| Monday, April 17, 2023

The second annual Raise Your Voice Symposium begins Monday at Saint Mary’s College. The three-day event in April raises awareness and educates students and community members about sexual violence during Sexual Violence Awareness Month.

Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) president, Angela Martinez Camacho, who has been involved in organizing and adverting the symposium, spoke about the event’s purpose.

“Unfortunately, sexual abuse and sexual assault is something that happens within the tri-campus, and sometimes it happens to our students,” Martinez Camacho said. “It’s through events like this symposium that we are able to show students that we are not only here to support them, but we’re also here to teach other students the importance of being believers, supporters and activists.”

Katelyn Waldschmidt | The Observer
A banner advertising this week’s Raise Your Voice Symposium all over Saint Mary’s campus.

The symposium opens Monday at 6 p.m. with athlete, survivor and activist Maggie Nichols’ keynote address.

Liz Baumann, a member of the President’s Committee on Sexual Violence, which also plans the symposium, talked about Nichols the significance of her presentation.

“[Nichols] is also known as ‘Athlete A,’ the first to formally report the abuse of Larry Nassar within USA Gymnastics,” Baumann said.

In 2020, Netflix released a documentary titled “Athlete A” about Nichols’ journey during the Nassar investigation. The term ‘Athlete A’ was used to maintain Nichols’ anonymity.

Martinez Camacho also spoke to the value of bringing Nichols in to speak during the symposium. 

“I know of her story through watching ‘Athlete A,’ and I was just so overwhelmed by what she had to endure leading up to the Olympics and still being able to pursue her talent, her dream of being a gymnast,” Martinez Camacho said. “I think it takes a lot of guts and that’s really inspiring to me.”

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Kate Lawson, Xavier University’s chief Title IX officer, will present a Title IX overview. Earlier in the year, the President’s Committee on Sexual Violence brought in Lawson to review the College’s Title IX process.

“We wanted to bring someone in that does not have a relationship with the students [and] has not conducted the process on our campus,” Baumann said. “Rather, she has the opportunity to solely talk about what Title IX is and what the best practices within it are and how we can implement that on our campus.” 

Additional events Tuesday include presentations and workshops about responses to sexual violence, supporting LGBTQ+ survivors, spirituality as both healing and heartbreak and advocacy and activism efforts.

The symposium concludes Wednesday with Take Back the Night, an annual tri-campus march for awareness of sexual violence. Lasting from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., students can take part in marches, survivor speak-outs and a prayer service held at the Grotto. 

Take Back the Night is special because it is collaboratively organized by the tri-campus, Baumann said.

“We hold meetings as a tri-campus so we have representatives, both staff and students, from all three campuses that help with the planning,” she said. “It’s not led by one campus or another. We really are working collaboratively on that event, which is really special because there aren’t very many of those currently going on in the tri-campus.” 

Martinez Camacho said Take Back the Night is a unique opportunity to increase sexual violence awareness throughout the tri-campus.

“It isn’t just a symposium for Saint Mary’s students, it’s open to the tri-campus community,Martinez Camacho said. “We hope Notre Dame really shows up. We hope Holy Cross really shows up. We just want this event to sort of be inspiring and empowering for all.”

With all the advertising of the symposium, especially by SGA, Martinez Camacho believes the three-day event will have a strong attendance.

“I think that turnout will be great,Martinez Camacho said. “I hope that through the workshops, students get to know or get to develop skills and gain knowledge.” 

But even when the symposium is done, Baumann said the the work to be done in raising awareness of sexual violence is not.

“Although the symposium falls in April, which is near the end of the [academic] year, we really think of it more as a beginning in the work,Baumann said. “It really is a year long effort, and we have people that are working year long on it including the President’s Committee, our Belles Against Violence office, our Title IX office, as well as student groups such as Belles Supporting Belles.”

During the symposium, what’s most important, Baumann said, is that everyone takes care of themselves.

“Although I wish for everyone to come to every single event during these three days, I also understand that this topic is incredibly emotionally taxing,” Baumann said. “Come to what you can, but also know your limits and take care of yourself. Find other ways to get involved in this cause if perhaps attending certain events are not the best fit for you and your needs.”

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