Every spring, the Boston College Women’s Center sponsors CARE (Concerned About Rape Education) Week, which aims to increase knowledge among BC students about sexual assault and the resources on-campus for students seeking assistance.
The Women’s Center, though, does not dispense this information in some manual on white paper with black type. Instead, the staff of the center work to plan and execute a week of intersectional, unorthodox events that will challenge students’ preconceptions of race, gender, culture, and the corresponding relations to sexual assault and violence.
On Monday night, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program brought The New York Times bestselling author Peggy Orenstein to campus to discuss her new book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape.
The discussion of gender-based differences in sex and society continued on Tuesday with the introduction of Sharon Imperato, a counselor at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Imperato spoke about the difficulties of male survivorship and how the challenges male survivors face differ from those of female survivors.
On Wednesday night, the Women’s Center invited the entire BC community to O’Neill Plaza for Take Back the Night, the perennial cornerstone of CARE Week. A transformative and inspiring event, this solidarity demonstration aimed to create a larger community of support and kinship for those who are survivors of sexual violence.
In quiet solidarity, attendees began to gather around O’Neill Plaza shortly before 6 p.m., the start time of the event. A small stage was set up on the grass of the plaza right across from Devlin Hall. An event administrator welcomed the crowd and stated the purpose of the event as creating community and support for survivors of sexual violence.
“At Take Back the Night, we join together as a community to reflect, heal, and advocate for change,” one student remarked. “We are part of a movement that upholds all those who have ever lived in fear for their agency, their bodies, or their personhood.”
Four speakers in all shared their personal stories of rape, focusing on how they had struggled with their journey of recovery and healing. A common thread present in all the talks was how they carried with them the memory of that one night. One speaker noted that her rape had become a part of her story, a part of her being. Still though, all agreed and declared that their experience of sexual assault did not own them nor did it define them.
Due to the sensitive nature of the talks, Boston College Sexual Assault Network (SANet) advocates were asked to identify themselves in the crowd in case someone needed help during the event. Attendees were encouraged to reach out to the Women’s Center and University Counseling Services if they needed support or assistance after the event.
In a demonstration of community, the event ended with a candlelit solidarity walk around campus. Organizers were careful to note the availability of a route for those who were mobility-impaired. Students, faculty, and staff united to walk in solidarity with survivors, placing battery-operated candles in various locations around campus in a profound show of humanity.
If you missed the events early in the week, CARE Week continues through Friday afternoon. The Women’s Center welcomes BC students to these events, though prior registration is required for the paint workshop.
Thursday’s event, Healing Through the Arts, represents a creative collaboration between the Women’s Center, the Dominican Association of Boston College (DABC), the Music Guild, and Bystander Advocacy. At 7 p.m. in Cushing 001, participants will be treated to a “night of performance filled with poetry, prose, art, and music surrounding the topic of sexual assault and gender-based violence,” according to the Women’s Center’s website.
To wrap up CARE Week, Friday’s event, Release: Expressive Paint Workshop, focuses on reflection going forward in the academic year. Held in Devlin 413 at 3 p.m., the workshop will emphasize healing and self-care through the use of art. RSVP is required by emailing [email protected].