Members of the Mason community came together Tuesday evening to take part in the Freedom and Learning Forum, a biannual dialogue series that invited students and faculty to sign a pledge to end sexual violence at Mason.
President Cabrera, who moderated the discussion, was recently named to a statewide Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
“It’s our job to make sure everyone is safe,” Cabrera said. “No one should live in fear, especially on a college campus.”
The event was part of the university’s commitment to eradicate sexual violence on campus. President Cabrera was joined by featured guest leader Rosemary Trible, founder and president of the non-profit advocacy group Fear 2 Freedom, which helps provide relief and recovery to victims of sexual assault, and by Dr. Angela Hattery, the director of Mason’s Women and Gender Studies Program.
Trible opened the discussion by sharing her own experience “moving through the journey of fear to freedom” after being raped at gunpoint in 1975 and described how this led her to devote her life to helping others traumatized by abuse.
“It is so important for victims to be able to have the opportunity to speak and to seek help,” Trible said.
Dr. Hattery pointed out that nationwide, one in six women and one in 33 men is a victim of sexual abuse. The conversation on sexual assault is especially important on college campuses, where it tops the list as the number one violent crime.
“We know on a college campus that victims of sexual assault are far more likely to drop out, less likely to graduate, more likely to transfer, more likely to have lower GPA’s,” Dr. Hattery said. “All because they’re having trouble managing this very traumatic experience […] so as a campus community, we have to be very concerned about the number of victims we have.”
Dr. Hattery also stressed the commitment Mason makes to students and faculty as a “well-being university,” saying that if we want students to be well and to function at their best, then we need to support them through all kinds of situations. She cited on-campus resources like Counseling and Psychological Services and Wellness, Alcohol, and Violence Education and Services as examples of support.
There was also an opportunity to help assemble after-care kits for Trible’s Fear 2 Freedom organization.
The kits will go to victims of rape and domestic violence being treated at the local INOVA hospitals and include clothing, toiletries, a “freedom bear” and a personal note to help start the healing process.
“[Sexual violence] can happen,” Trible said. “So we want you to be there to really say, not only do I want to change my heart and get involved in this issue, I want to communicate it in such a way that makes a difference for men, women and children.”
Photo Credit: Johannah Tubalado