Story by Kelsey Dassance, Reporter
Photo courtesy of AQ Believe/Facebook
Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted. One in every six American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape (RAINN.org). The AQ Believe Week of Action is dedicated to raising awareness and standing up against this very prominent issue. This year, the week (held April 9-13) included events such as a men’s workshop with Michael Stahl-David, “The Light of the Moon” film screening, and panels regarding campus procedures and cultural implications of sexual assault, as well as sexual assault as a men’s issue.
Lena Peak, an Aquinas student who exhibits admirable dedication to this movement through her leadership role on the Believe team, said, “This year we’re focused more on how men can get involved in combating sexual assault and the rape culture that perpetuates it. While men are certainly also victim-survivors of sexual assault, they are also overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual assault.”
In response to this, the AQ men’s basketball coach cancelled practice for his team and made the men’s workshop a mandatory event to attend. Peak said, “I think that sets a great precedent within the AQ athletic community for what issues we prioritize on this campus.”
Michael Stahl-David, who facilitated the workshop, said he was somewhat surprised by the responses he received from the men in attendance, but was grateful for the opportunity to encourage conversation.
Other events, such as the film screening and panel, were widely attended by students who are enthusiastic about the movement. Sydney Palmer, a junior, said she attended the panel because she was invited by a friend who is very passionate about combating sexual assault, and she is excited to “continue talking about this issue, openly and authentically, with other students on campus to promote a culture of respect.”
Bella DiPietro, a student and survivor of sexual assault, works tirelessly and courageously to promote a more respectful culture on campus. Although this topic has personal meaning to her, she said it is not just a personal issue, “it’s an everyone issue. We need to talk about it instead of treating it like a taboo subject. Rape is rape, no means no, and it is no ones fault except for the perpetrator.”
Penny Avery, who served as the moderator for the men’s issue panel, said, “There are things that we can all do to be a voice in healing.” The AQ Believe Team engaged us all in this important conversation throughout the week, however, it is up to us to keep the conversation going.
Sexual assault happens, it is a real problem, and we cannot ignore it any longer. On a college campus, we are surrounded by victim-survivors of sexual assault, and it’s on us to create an environment where they can speak up and be heard. It is our responsibility to prioritize the ongoing issue, rather than ignoring it and enabling perpetrators. AQ Survivors, I hear you.