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April 17, 2013

Conference confronts sexual assault on college campuses

two women talking
Organizers of “Survivor to Thriver: Confronting Sexual Assault on Campus” spread a message of support and empowerment for survivors of sexual assault and gender violence.

More than 80 students, faculty, staff, and community members came together for “Survivor to Thriver: Confronting Sexual Assault on Campus,” to address issues of sexual assault and gender violence on college campuses. The conference, held April 2 and 3, included a series of lectures, workshops, and panel discussions.

President Joel Seligman began the daylong series of events April 3 by offering remarks about the importance of combating sexual violence, an area he said is of “fundamental importance” to the campus community. After expressing his gratitude to those who organized and supported the conference, Seligman said, “As a former law school dean who supported domestic violence clinics at two different law schools, I have been exposed firsthand to the horror of sexual violence. I join those in our community who wish to take all appropriate steps to prevent sexual assault.”

During the conference’s keynote address, former Division III student-athlete Maggie Maloy shared her personal story of recovery after an assault. As Maloy recounted her attack, which occurred when she was 15 years old, she interwove stories of her healing process, turning what was “without question the most terrifying time” of her life into an inspiring story of empowerment, forgiveness, and advocacy.

During her presentation, which she has delivered on college campuses around the country, she told audience members of the importance of taking control of how you respond to moments of trauma. “You have to pull strength from within,” she said. “You have to acknowledge what’s happened but focus on what you can empower.”

A panel discussion, which included representatives from Security Services, University Counseling Center, Rape Crisis Service, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Services, and the District Attorney’s Office, followed the keynote address. Panelists helped demystify the process by walking audience members through the many steps survivors can take after an assault, including medical examinations, interviews with law enforcement officials, and discussions with rape crisis counselors.

Activities moved to Wilson Commons in the afternoon, where attendees had the opportunity to view posters featuring ongoing efforts to prevent and respond to gender violence, while community and campus organizations shared information about their services in “Caring Circles.” Participants also had the chance to speak one-on-one with Maloy and panelists from the morning session. Two lectures delivered by David Bleich, professor of English, and Denise Yarbrough, director of Religious and Spiritual Life, rounded out the conference program.

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