Boston College students, along with students from many other Massachusetts schools, attended the Student Rally Against Sexual Violence at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday afternoon. Primarily organized by The Every Voice Coalition, the event aimed to bring together students from more than 20 campus communities across Massachusetts to advocate for two bills.
The first bill, H.4159 “The Campus Climate Survey Bill,” requires universities to distribute sexual misconduct climate surveys. The creators of the climate surveys would include representatives of rape crisis centers, state officials, and university students. This bill ensures that every student’s voice is heard and provides necessary data to generate solutions to the sexual violence epidemic.
The second bill, S.2203 “An Act Relative to Sexual Violence on Higher Education Campuses,” provides a series of basic protections to survivors of sexual assault. Facilities will have to institute centers or create partnerships with local rape crisis centers to provide adequate care to survivors. Another aspect of the bill is the introduction of mandatory sexual violence prevention and awareness programs on campus.
In an email to The Gavel, the BC Women's Center staff stressed the importance of these bills.
"While on-campus discussions and awareness campaigns on social media are important ways to draw attention to the issue, laws and policies have a powerful, directive effect,” said the Women's Center statement.
This is in-line with the official mission statement of the Women's Center, which is to “cultivate a campus culture that fosters the advancement of women and inspires all students to discover and embrace their full potential.”
The representative from BC’s Women Center explained that for someone to reach their full potential, it is necessary that they have a sense of safety in their environment. Therefore, the Women's Center seeks to provide constant care and support to survivors of all gender identities and sexual orientations through education, awareness programs, and Care Hours (3 p.m.-4 p.m. every day).
The Women's Center staff also stressed the need for policy change to help them to reach their mission statement.
“Institutions such as universities still have a long way to go to enact comprehensive procedures that prioritize the protection and support of survivors of sexual violence,” said the Women's Center.
In addition to the rally, 40 meetings were held between students and legislators. The atmosphere of the event was very supportive and optimistic, as students were allowed to voice their opinions to officials and generate discussion.
Abbey McHugh, MCAS '20, a BC student who attended the event, noted its uniqueness.
"Recently, protests around the nation have been against something—this one was completely different," said McHugh. "It was full of hope because we had a chance to change our community for the better.”
McHugh stated that taking opportunities to participate in rallies and speak directly with lawmakers are effective ways to support policies that combat sexual violence.
“By making our voices heard and talking with our representatives after the rally, we [as students] hope it will be the last bit of momentum that these bills need in order to be voted on this session,” said McHugh.