Sexual assault prevention advocate Molly McLay used graphic poetry and past experiences Monday to convey her message about campus assaults and gender violence.
McLay is the assistant director for the women’s resource center at the University of Illinois. She began a workshop within the resource center known as First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education. She said it is “undertaking” for such a small staff to run such a program.
She said many students do not realize they are victims of sexual assault until they experience the FYCARE workshop.
She began her talk by issuing a “trigger warning” for those in attendance. She said anyone should feel free to step outside or seek support during the speech if something made them too uncomfortable.
McLay said she has tasked herself to inspire and motivate those in attendance to fight rape culture. She said 1-in-5 women are victims of sexual assault and 1-in-16 men are victims.
“We need to always stand with survivors,” McLay said. “To respect and honor the courage it takes to share their stories, to believe them and let them know that it is not their fault.”
She said she uses poetry because she studied creative writing as an undergraduate and it helps to motivate her to fight rape culture.
McLay said she did not realize she was a victim of sexual assault until recently when she heard the story of another survivor who shared a similar experience.
She said there is no better evidence of a rape culture than someone who works within these support resources not realizing they are a victim.
McLay said people should start questioning why others commit sexual assault instead of asking “victim blaming” questions.
She said everyone can be a personal support system outside the many resources provided by universities and communities all over.
“Offer them your support and help them brainstorm resources,” McLay said. “But remember that everything is up to them no matter what.”
She said whatever a survivor is doing is what they are doing to make it through coping with their experience.
She said some people have friends who say they are tired of looking after one another because they get “too drunk.” She said that is the type of attitude that upset her and motivated her to support the “It’s On Us” campaign.
The campaign is focused on getting people to look after each other and find ways to avoid being a bystander when they see a problem.
“We have a responsibility to create a better world for our youth and those who have not been born,” McLay said.
She said the University of Illinois’ sexual assault resource website can be confusing and would like to see it changed to be more like Eastern’s.
Eastern’s student body president Reginald Thedford said McLay’s talk was very “enlightening.”
He said issues were brought up that he did not know about and which he expects others perhaps were also unaware of.
“It gets them thinking and maybe having discussions with their own peers and friends in their own circles,” Thedford said. “This sets the tone for kind of like a platform for them to feel comfortable to do that with each other.”
He said there are a lot of good resources for sexual assault victims at Eastern, but thinks the school could do a better job making them more visible for the students.
“It is just a matter of getting the word out to the students,” he said.
Jehad Abbed can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]