by Shannon Rafferty

This year I had the opportunity to organize Sexual Violence Awareness Week here at University Park. This week is an annual effort to raise awareness of the issue of sexual violence and misconduct and educate students on how we can all work together to prevent sexual violence. I was able to bring in Eve Ensler as our keynote speaker, which was extremely exciting because of the role she plays in advocating against violence against women across the globe. Eve created the play The Vagina Monologues which is a part of V-Day, an effort to stop violence against women, and also started One Billion Rising which is the largest mass action to end violence against women in human history.

Meeting Eve was a truly amazing experience. She broadened my understanding of the issue of sexual violence beyond our campus, and even our nation, to other countries where the situation is even worse. There are some countries that do not have laws against female genital mutilation or where women that get raped are still seen as the ones to be punished for that crime. The statistics tell us that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during their college career, while 1 in 3 women globally will be victims of sexual violence during their lifetime. Speaking with Eve about these issues, and hearing her lecture at our keynote event, gave me a more globalized view of an issue that I am already so passionate about.

Additionally, I was able to bring this perspective to hundreds of other students through Eve’s keynote speech, and the discussion she hosted for Paterno Fellows after. This experience allowed me to serve my fellow students and hopefully further educate them on the huge impact that sexual violence has on the global population. Meeting Eve and hearing her speak reaffirmed my aspirations to continue raising awareness of sexual violence and helping victims of these crimes. She inspired me to dream big and imagine a world where sexual violence is ended and women can live without fear. I hope to work for an organization that makes efforts to end sexual violence and further women’s rights after I graduate in May.

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