On Wednesday evening, students put aside their studies and instead dedicated their evening to assembling after-care packages filled with clothes, toiletries, counseling resources and personal notes for survivors of sexual assault.
Together with Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and Delta Chi fraternity, William & Mary’s fourth annual Fear 2 Freedom Celebration Event in Trinkle Hall aimed to bring awareness of sexual assault, domestic violence, sex trafficking and child abuse to college students.
Founded by Rosemary Trible in 2011, Fear 2 Freedom is a global non-profit organization dedicated to delivering survivors of sexual assault into freedom by bringing them healing and hope through support and awareness.
The organization partners with 18 colleges around the country, including William & Mary, to host Celebration Events with the goal of educating students about the somber reality of sexual assaults, empower them to become a tangible part of the solution and, ultimately, ease the transition from fear to freedom for survivors.
Throughout the evening, W&M students had the opportunity to participate in Fear 2 Freedom’s two-fold mission to “Be the Change” and “Restore the Joy.”
Beginning the evening, W&M President Taylor Reveley gave a few words about the importance of combating sexual assault on campuses through awareness, policies and support.
Anne Marie Baker, the senior director of national campaign and programs, spoke briefly about the founding of the organization and what the evening ahead would hold for those in attendance.
“Sexual assault is a huge problem across our nation,” she said. “You hear about major cases in media, but for each case that you hear about, tens of thousands more occur that we never hear about.”
Fear2Freedom, she stated, was founded to place the power in the hands of students to be the change on their college campuses through awareness, but more importantly, to bring comfort to those who have been sexually assaulted.
According to Baker, celebration events around the country have been responsible for creating over 15,000 after-care kits that are meant to bring immediate comfort to survivors in the aftermath of an assault.
When a survivor of sexual assault goes to the hospital for help, they undergo a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit, or P.E.R.K., exam. As part of the process, the survivor is required to leave his or her clothing behind as evidence and leave with hand-me-down clothing or paper scrubs. The clothing inside the after-care kits, however, returns some of the dignity to survivor by providing them with comfortable clothing and access to resources, said Baker.
Also included in the kit was “freedom bear,” a small stuffed bear that doubles as a counseling tool to deal with the emotions and fears that follow the ordeal of assault. While freedom bear serves to bring comfort, Baker noted, the personal notes that students wrote would add to that comfort.
Supplies for the kits were purchased with a $2,500 first-place prize that Kappa Kappa Gamma won during spring impact week, a student philanthropy initiative in which student organizations compete to get their community-service projects funded.
Juanita Graham from Avalon Center of Williamsburg introduced the services offered by Avalon and then, invited students to participate in an interactive activity.
She had 13 students volunteer to read a personal story of a survivor. As each student read a line of the story, they covered another student with a small blanket, to illustrate what sexual violence can look and feel like, Graham said.
She prompted students in the audience to give ways in which they could help a survivor of sexual violence. With each answer, she removed a blanket, and, layer by layer, she demonstrated just how students could help free a survivor from the weight of sexual violence.
Before the opening program concluded, students were invited to take a stand and pledge, led by Reveley, to end sexual assault on- and off-campus.
Students then commenced packing the after-care kits filled with resources, love and support that were the focus of the evening.
“I think it’s really important for us to stand up as a community and say that we really support survivors,” said Catherine Weed ’17, the student campus coordinator for the event and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
At the end of the night, volunteers created 145 after-care kits and loaded them into a vehicle to be distributed to Sentara Williamsburg, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and Avalon of Williamsburg.“I think this provides a lot of immediate support,” Weed said. “I think it’s really good, because you just really need support in that moment when you’re at the hospital and going through that. It’s nice to know that there’s a community of people that care.”