Students unite to bring sexual assault victims hope
The Campus Center’s Trinkle Hall was abuzz with activity Tuesday evening as members of the William & Mary community filled boxes and bags with clothing, toiletries, stuffed bears and encouraging notes for survivors of sexual assaults.
The effort was part of William & Mary’s partnership with Fear2Freedom, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting those wounded by sexual assaults and changing the cultural understanding surrounding the issue of sexual violence. Led by Fear2Freedom’s founder and president, Rosemary Trible, the Celebration Event saw over 40 students learn about the problem of sexual assault before assembling after-care kits to support victims.
“It’s so important to the community to reach out and stand with sexual assault survivors, especially in light of the recent sexual assault task force report,” said Catherine Weed ’17, the campus coordinator for Fear2Freedom and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. “I think it’s really important for the sororities and fraternities to stand up and say that this is not okay with us and that we’re going to support the survivors in any way we can.”
The Celebration Event, co-sponsored by Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and Delta Chi fraternity, is an annual event now in its third year at William & Mary.
W&M President Taylor Reveley opened the evening by emphasizing the importance of sexual-assault awareness and prevention, especially on a university campus.
“I encourage you all to pledge to help end sexual violence on this campus,” he said. “It will hinge on each of us doing our part. This is a situation where nobody can stand on the sideline and say let other people do it.”
Reveley himself signed one of the pledge scrolls available for attendees mark their commitment to “help end sexual assault at William & Mary” and to “stand firm to protect [their] fellow classmates on and off campus.”
Speaking next, Trible — herself a survivor of violent sexual assault — emphasized the urgent need the students would help meet by making the after-care kits.
“Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in our country,” Trible said. “That’s why we call it ‘Fear’ and the number ‘2’ ‘Freedom.’”
Unfortunately, she noted, most survivors’ trauma does not usually end with the assault itself.
“When someone goes to the hospital for a P.E.R.K. [Physical Evidence Recovery Kit] exam, they don’t realize all their clothes have to be kept as evidence. This means that women, men and children are leaving our hospitals in paper scrubs after a moment of greatest trauma,” Trible said. “That’s why we make these kits — they are a gift of hope given to victims of abuse when they arrive at the hospital.”
According to Trible, Fear2Freedom has made over 10,000 kits with the help of 16 college partners that have been provided to around 30 hospital and community partners since the organization’s inception in 2011.
Trible told the William & Mary volunteers that, during this event, they would pack 225 after-care kits to be distributed to local Sentara and Riverside hospitals, Latisha’s House, Avalon, the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative and Carillion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
After hearing from Joseph Belsterling ’15, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who emphasized that the community needs to listen to and love victims unconditionally to help them overcome the mindset that they are “damaged goods,” the gathered volunteers paused for a moment of silence in remembrance of victims who did not survive.
Once at work, assembling the after-care kits did not take long. Students soon had stacked hundreds of brightly colored boxes filled with vital necessities for victims along the walls of Trinkle Hall, each one containing a heartfelt message of love and support handwritten by the student volunteers.The final step of the night was to load the after-care kits into a waiting Lifecare ambulance serving as a delivery vehicle, ready to provide these boxes of hope to someone in a time of devastating need.