The BRAVE Battle against Sexual Violence

By Alyssa Seidman
Co-Editor-in-Chief

Recently, LIU Post was awarded a grant from the Avon Foundation for Women as part of the company’s 2014 Campus Grants to Activate Bystanders to Reduce Sexual Assault, Dating Abuse, and Stalking. Since its inception in 1955, the organization has aided charitable, scientific, educational, and humanitarian activities that improve the lives of women and their families.

Students at Columbia Univeristy rally together in protest to support a fellow student who was sexually abused

Students at Columbia Univeristy rally together in protest to support a fellow student who was sexually abused. Photo courtesy of Kat Arney.

According to Sarah Boles, a social worker in the Center for Healthy Living, the university will use the grant to launch a new program called the LIU Post BRAVE Initiative. BRAVE stands for Bystander Rape Assault and Violence Education.

“In order to raise awareness on our campus about these issues, our proposal was to institute this initiative,” Boles said. “The idea was to train [and] make students almost like experts in these topics, so that they can go out and raise awareness within the campus community.”

“When any kind of a violent act, whether it be sexual or otherwise [occurs], there are things that you can do as a bystander to intervene without putting yourself in harms way,” Boles continued. “I think that the more you educate people on how much of an impact they can make as a bystander when these incidences occur, people will feel like they can actually help in a situation.”

Incidences such as the alleged mugging of a freshman girl on Chipmunk Trail last week, which shook the Pioneer community with
fear and concern for the safety of the campus. Public Safety confirmed, however, that this incident was simply a rumor.

BRAVE is not the first program of its kind to educate Post students about sexual assault awareness and prevention. “For the past eight years, we’ve done a program here called the Red Flag Campaign, and the whole idea behind that [is] to raise awareness about dating violence, which includes sexual assault,” Boles added. “We were actually one of the first schools in the country to have a Red Flag Campaign.”

The establishment of the BRAVE Initiative coincides with two events occurring on campus this month that also aim to raise awareness about sexual assault. The first is a conference sponsored by the Long Island Interbranch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which will be held in the Great Hall of the Winnick House on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The conference will feature a panel of professionals. The panelists include: Christine Cione, the education coordinator of The Safe Center; Kyle Rose-Louder, the bureau chief of the Special Victims Bureau within the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office; Lynne A. Schwartz, the director of the Counseling Center and Center for Healthy Living at LIU Post; and Mary Logan, the legal advocacy fund chair of the AAUW Westchester County Branch.

AAUWs conference presents the statistic that college women are four times more likely to be raped than the average woman, and that the Department of Justice estimates only five percent of rapes are reported. Diane Haney, former co-president of the North Shore Branch of AAUW, said the panel will discuss what colleges nationwide are doing about this issue, and what each of us as individuals should be doing about it.

“Colleges resist dealing with this [issue] because it’s bad publicity, and they have a strong stake in making it as minimal [of a problem] as possible,” Haney said. “I realized the other day that I know four women who were either raped, or whose daughters were raped. And this is our issue as women, of any age. If we don’t stand up for it, who will?”

When asked about The White House’s government-level task force intended to protect college students from being sexually assaulted, Haney said, “There’s a lot of pushback that sounds on the surface to be very balanced, and it’s only when you dig into it a little more deeply that you realize it’s not quite balanced. Everybody is entitled to fair representation and due process [under the] law, but somehow when we think about where the concern should be [placed at the federal level], it seems that women are still being minimized.”

Columbia co-eds carry mattress cross-campus to send a message about sexual violence. Photo courtesy of Jessica Valenti

Columbia co-eds carry mattress cross-campus to send a message about sexual violence. Photo courtesy of Jessica Valenti

Madelaine Olsen, a senior International Relations major, will host a conference called “Speak Up! Breaking the Taboo” in The End Zone on Oct. 2 during common hour. The event focuses on the issue of violence against women. “It’s in light of the International Day of Non- Violence, established by the United Nations General Assembly to educate and raise public awareness around this topic,” Olsen said.

Olsen’s major specialization is the Middle East, perhaps due to the fact that she grew up with her mother stationed in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. “I think as both a woman and a mom she had a hard time not getting emotional when hearing about how grotesque certain rape cases were [in that area].”

Olsen hopes her conference will broaden people’s opinions on the topic stateside. “I got interested in learning more about why this [was] taking place, [as well as] the mentality of people and societies that don’t share the same views that we do here [in terms of] law and human rights,” she said. “I soon learned that violence against women is just as prevalent in America as it is widely ignored. Although we are lucky [to be] living in a developed nation that enjoys good security, domestic violence statistics are still very dark.” Olsen also emphasized the fact that there’s a social taboo attached to the issue of sexual violence.

“[The] point I want to raise is that violence is not just taking place in India and Pakistan, although this is what’s acceptable to talk about since we see it in the news.” Olsen continued, “But when we talk about rape, we tend to hide [the fact that] this is taking place in homes, college campuses, and on the streets of the U.S. as well, but people don’t talk about it as much, and almost no victim reports it. By breaking the taboo and educating students [about] utilizing the criminal justice system [in these cases], we can change the attitudes surrounding this subject.”

Lauren Lipari, a sophomore Radiology major, believes that the new initiative and the conferences are “positive steps towards helping students become active bystanders. People will know what to do if they encounter a situation where sexual violence is involved. Once people become more educated on the topic, they won’t be as nervous to step in and help someone who is in need,” said Lipari.

“I think sexual assault is essentially a worldwide epidemic,” said Jack Thedinga, a senior Political Science major. “Part of the problem
is that a major focus is on ‘How Not to Get Raped or Assaulted,’ and there’s not enough focus on how or when to intervene as well as what constitutes assault. For instance, numerous studies have shown that a shockingly large proportion of adolescent and adult males don’t consider the legal parameters defining sexual assault to actually describe sexual assault or rape in their eyes.”

“It’s exciting for us to get a grant like this, and the fact we have [BRAVE] is really great,” said Boles. “If there are students that are interested in becoming a BRAVE mentor, they can certainly be in touch with me.”

Boles’ office is located in the Life Science Building, room 154. For more information about the BRAVE Initiative, Boles can be reached at (516) 299-4163, or by email at sarah.boles@liu.edu.

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