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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Saint Mary’s students gather to support victims of sexual violence

As Saint Mary’s students walked around campus Wednesday they may have seen sporting violet t-shirts. On Monday, one fourth of the Saint Mary’s student body were handed t-shirts that read "One in Four” — representing the statistic that one in four college women have been or will be effected by sexual violence in their lifetime.

On Wednesday, Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) and Saint Mary’s Campus Ministry held a Belles for Healing Vigil in support of survivors of sexual violence. The prayer service featured reflections, music and prayer. 

As students gathered on Alumnae Green, the director of Campus Ministry, Regina Wilson, and BAVO student representatives invited students to stand, gave opening remarks and led the group in song. Wilson said it was important for the Saint Mary’s community to gather in support of those effected by sexual violence. 

“It’s an opportunity to come together and, since we’re a faith-based institution, to express our hope that there is hope for everyone and to pray in solidarity with all those who have suffered — and to stand together as a vision, as a community in prayer and solidarity,” she said.

Wilson said the vigil allowed the Saint Mary‘s student body to lift up violence survivors in prayer.

“Anytime people gather for prayer, I hope it gives comfort,” she said. “I hope it gives language to people’s feelings of confusion or their feelings of feeling alone. When we’re all here, we’re a sign that we are not alone, even when we feel a deep loneliness.”

Between songs, students read the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou and passages of scripture on healing. Students were invited to write the names of survivors, messages of hope or their personal stories on slips of dissolvable paper and to place them in water. Students also lit candles and observed a moment of silence. 

Assistant director of campus ministry Liz Palmer said she hopes students walked away from the event with “a spirit of solidarity.”

“Life is one of relationships and one where we should all support and be with one another,” Palmer said.

Senior Courtney Driscoll, BAVO Student Advisory Committee (SAC) member and co-chair for the events and campaigns committee, explained BAVO is led primarily by Student Advisory Committees, each with two co-chairs who lead a group of 10 to 15 allies. 

“Liz Coulston recently joined BAVO as the new director. With my experience working for BAVO the last three years, we could not ask for a better director,” she said. “Liz is everything Saint Mary’s needs. She is punctual, creative and displays all-around leadership.”

Driscoll said the vigil was organized in the hope of creating an inclusive space for the Saint Mary’s community to unite and promote a message of hope and healing for those affected by sexual violence.

“I aim to create unique visual campaigns,” Driscoll said. “I believe through this — making students more aware and supporting them — will cultivate a safer environment and potentially lower sexual violence in our campus community.” 

Junior Katelyn Edwards, a committee ally entering her first year working for BAVO, said the event was an emotional and inspiring experience for her.

“It supplied students with a safe space to let go and heal from whatever they have been affected by,” she said. “It allowed the community to support them in a silent and respectful way. I look forward to working with BAVO this next year and help plan the events to come.”