By Hannah Stryker

Sexual assault awareness has become a major conversation on college campuses in recent years, in accordance with the #MeToo movement. Occupy McKeldin, an eight-hour event held by campus organization Preventing Sexual Assault, occurred April 17 on McKeldin Mall and was devoted to educating students about sexual assault and promoting advocacy for survivors.

Various campus organizations such as the LGBT Equity Center and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault were present at the event. The event hosted speakers who shared their personal stories of sexual assault, and their ways of coping with the issue.

From 12:45 to 1:00 p.m. the University of Maryland NAACP activism committee chair Elonna Jones spoke of her sexual assault experience from years ago. Jones gave fellow sexual assault survivors words of encouragement for the future and how she was able to rise up from the incident.

“There was a point when I felt ashamed,” Jones said. “Now I’ve realized that being able to share this story doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t make me shameful. It makes me strong because I can sit here and tell you guys that now I am okay.”

Shortly after Jones’ talk, Heidi Bresee discussed her experience working as a forensic nurse in rape cases at Shady Grove Medical Center for 15 years. Bresee currently works as a lecturer in the criminology & criminal justice department at the University of Maryland, Shady Grove campus.

“Does it matter what we wear?” Bresee asked the audience. “Nobody asked to be sexually assaulted. You didn’t do anything wrong. The blame goes to the person who sexually assaulted you.”

Bresee explained that after an incident of sexual assault, victims should find someone to talk to. This can be hospital staff, police officers or even teachers.

“Occupy McKeldin exemplifies the power of change by the masses. I believe PSA did a beautiful thing by bringing together a mixed basket of people to an event that showed the importance of sexual assault prevention. It has a moving effect on the lives of college students and adults,” freshman government and politics major Maahi Saini said. “I thoroughly enjoyed attending the event and would absolutely attend another.”  

To quote the wise words of Jones, “Rape happens when consent is not given. Period!”

Featured Photo Credit: Hannah Stryker/Bloc Reporter.

Hannah Stryker is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at hannahstryker70@gmail.com.

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