By Katherine Coble || Contributing Writer
While walking through the Steinman College Center this week, F&M students may have
noticed something different: a large blue poster with dozens of orange Post-It notes duct-taped to it. All of the notes provide anonymous answers to a prompt displayed in large lettering: “Imagine a world without sexual violence. What’s different?”
The display, known as a Vision Wall, is part of an ongoing effort by F&M’s Students Against Sexual Violence as part of their We Are Here campaign. The We Are Here campaign originated on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in conjunction with the nonprofit organization Hidden Secrets, which aims to start conversations about the issues of minority groups. It has been featured on more than 50 college campuses, and came to F&M beginning September 15. The Vision Wall will remain in the College Center until September 25. All of the Post-It notes will be read aloud at the Students Against Sexual Violence meeting on September 26 at 6:00 PM in Stager 215.
F&M senior and Students Against Sexual Violence co-president Marcella Labellarte’s goal for the Vision Wall is to start a dialogue among students. “I really love this school and I really appreciate what it does for its students, but one of its biggest problems is that we don’t talk about sexual violence enough. And we don’t talk about how it affects not just individuals, but the community as a whole.” She hopes the We Are Here Campaign encourages people who may not think they know anyone affected by sexual violence to engage in a conversation about how sexual violence both directly and indirectly the F&M community.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the largest anti-sexual violence non-profit organization in the country, 23.1% of female students and 5.4% of male students will experience rape or sexual assault during their under graduate years of college. Though F&M is generally considered to be a safe place, sexual violence does occur on campus. Labellarte, her co-president Richard Donahoe, and the rest of Students Against Sexual Violence want the Vision Wall to makes people stop and think about the positive change that would come to the F&M community if sexual violence was less of a widespread concern.
“We are privileged and empowered because of our education to do something about the things we’ve learned while in college,” Labellarte explains. F&M students have the ability to make positive change in their community whether it be in Lancaster, abroad, or back home. Labellarte wants Students Against Sexual Violence to support and encourage the education and activism of the F&M student body.
“The worst thing is to come to college and have experiences that you’ve always had, and to not be changed by it. I think it’s really important for people to leave college with a better understanding of how the world works, how they fit within that world, and how they can change it for the better.” Labellarte hopes the We Are Here Campaign and future endeavors by Students Against Sexual Violence inspires this sort of change.
In addition to the reading of the Vision Wall at their meeting on September 26, Students Against Sexual Violence will be holding a breakout session during the Day of Dialogue this October 5. It will be called “Let’s Talk About Sex” and focus on how healthy relationships create a better college community. They hope to have a training session with the YWCA about how to respond when a friend discloses their experiences with sexual violence as part of the club’s increased focus on peer education. Next semester they hope to hold several events on campus as part of Sexual Violence Awareness Month in April.
Students Against Sexual Violence meets every other Monday in Stager 215. They are the umbrella organization for Men United Against Sexual Assault (MUASA), whose meeting time and location are yet to be determined. For additional updates, students can like the “F&M Students Against Sexual Violence” page on Facebook.
First-year Katherine Coble is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.