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New student group hosts sexual violence discussion

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Students and faculty from the University at Albany gathered last week for a discussion on sexual assault and how the #MeToo movement has affected the campus community.

Sexual Violence Prevention Ambassadors, a new student group, organized nearly 30 students and faculty members in the Education building last Tuesday evening in light of the
upcoming string of events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

Attendees and organizers alike shared many common experiences and personal stories of survival during the group discussion.

“I’m here to represent the many women who have been sexually harassed in public, even on this campus. That’s why I think #MeToo is so important,” said Audrai Payne, an SVPA

Mark Anthony Quinn, who lost to Langie Cadesca in the race for Student Association president last Friday, stopped by the event.

“I feel like these types of events are so important because they help to educate people, so they can really make a change,” said Quinn.

The #MeToo trend picked up attention all over the world within the last year, calling those who have been victims of sexual violence to share their stories in efforts to put the common
experience into perspective.

Assistant Director for the Advocacy Center for Sexual Violence, Mary McCarthy, also informed attendees of the resources the center offers on campus.

Of all 64 SUNY campuses, UAlbany is the only campus with an advocacy center in addition to other safety and Title IX related resources.

“I feel really privileged to be on a campus that has its own advocacy center,” said Emily Connor, an ambassador.

In 2016, the #JustAsk campaign began its Empowered Bystander training program. Over a quarter of the student population were trained by 2017.

This was eventually made mandatory for student athletes, fraternity and sorority members, and all other student group leaders under the Enough is Enough Law, state legislation signed into law in 2015 to combat sexual assault on SUNY campuses.

In addition to the Bystander Training, McCarthy reminded attendees that these issues can intersect with sexual violence and suggested how to “deflect bad actions.”

The #MeToo movement inspired discussions on platforms like GroupMe and WhatsApp in the forms of anonymous, underground group chats where people can have an outlet to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault survival.

Though they are often informal groups, according to the SVPAs, there is no knowledge of any group like this started by UAlbany students yet.

McCarthy, who also helped organize the discussion event, said that the response to the events held so far have been mostly positive for the new group.

“Things are going great,” said McCarthy. “The opportunity to engage students in the promotion of sexual violence prevention is so critical; and having students be the ambassadors themselves is really the best way. When people can share experiences, they help build a community on campus.”

The SVPA will continue to hold events all throughout April. Their next event, the “Helping Someone Heal” workshop, will be held Wednesday, April 4.

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