Photo Courtesy of Jane Ewald

CARE Week Calls Students to Confront the Stigma and Support Survivors

The Boston College Women's Center kicked off their annual CARE Week, a series of programming events that raise awareness about sexual assault, with the panel discussion "Supporting Survivors 101" on Monday afternoon.

"CARE Week aims to educate students and provide resources about the prevalence of sexual assault and rape on college campuses, the definition of consent, ways to recognize and navigate unhealthy relationships, how to help a friend who survived a sexual assault, [and] how to be a proactive bystander," said Djanan Kernizan, Director of CARE Week and an undergraduate staff member at the Women's Center.

In order to meet these goals, the Women's Center, in collaboration with departments across campus, has organized a week of events that attempt to address the experience of surviving sexual assault and of supporting survivors at BC through a range of social contexts and identities.

Monday's first event, "Supporting Survivors 101," was organized to help students become familiar with strategies and university-specific resources to help others who have disclosed an experience of sexual assault. The panel consisted of Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Student Title IX Coordinator Melinda Stoops, Associate Dean of Students Corey Kelly, and graduate assistant for the Bystander Program Teresa Sullivan.

"Surviving R Kelly: Where #BlackLivesMatter Meets #Metoo," the second event on Monday night, called attention to the experiences of Black female survivors of sexual assault. At this event, professors Régine Jean-Charles and Shawn McGuffey of the Africa and African Diaspora program facilitated a discussion of the Lifetime documentary Surviving R Kelly and prompted attendants to consider how to better address the needs of black survivors of sexual assault.

Moving into the second day of events, Women's Center staff member Eliza Manriquez, MCAS '20, will continue the discussion of the experiences of survivors who experience marginalization with "Breaking the Silence: Exposing Ableism" at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in McGuinn 030. This presentation will highlight the challenges faced by survivors with disabilities and ways to provide support to their community.

Also, CARE Week organizers are collaborating with the Women's and Gender Studies program to host activist Byron Hurt, a lecturer, writer, award-winning documentary filmmaker and a founding member of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Program. Hurt will be discussing masculinity, survivorship, and resisting violence through leadership and the bystander model on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in McGuinn 121.

Take Back the Night, an event in which survivors of sexual assault come forward and tell their stories to the crowd, will take place at Wednesday at 6 p.m. in O'Neill Plaza.

"Take Back the Night creates a community of support where survivors tell their stories in front of a large group of peers," said Kernizan. "We want as many students as possible to be there to show their support."

The Spirituality and Survivorship event, held in collaboration with Campus Ministry, will present spiritual practices that survivors and their allies might find helpful in addition to providing a opportunity for a conversation about the impact of faith in survivorship. The event will take place at the Thomas More Apartments (2150) in room 109 at 6 p.m.

As the week comes to a close, the Release Paint Workshop at 2 p.m. on Friday and a candlelit Mass on Sunday night at 10:15 p.m. in the Heights Room will provide spaces for students to reflect and move towards comfort and healing.

"We hope that after attending one or more CARE Week activities, students will be better able to create a community of support for sexual assault survivors, which fosters empathy, encourages advocacy, and is conscious of individual potential, to positively impact the community," said Kernizan.


Maura Donnelly