Members of the Meredith College community gathered in Harris Building on Tuesday, March 26, to attend a panel discussion on sexual violence prevention and advocacy in North Carolina. This event was the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, which took place March 26-29 and was sponsored by Sisters United, PEARLS, Health Services, the Counseling Center, and the Dean of Students.
The panel consisted of Bethany Bebik, who works at InterAct, JP Przewoznik and Skye David, who work for the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA), Juliette Grimmett, founder of Chrysalis Network, and Shirrell Thomas with the Durham Crisis Response Center (DCRC).
Lindsey Norris, ’20, a social work major, led the discussion. Questions ranged from why the panelists decided to enter this field of work to their opinion of the #MeToo movement.
Some members of the panel said the work chose them. Others are survivors of rape or child abuse. Grimmett, a survivor herself, said from the moment she was assaulted, her work began in advocacy and education. Her desire is to spread awareness and end sexual assault.
Thomas shared her story of how she came into this line of work. She was told to pick up a woman who had been sexually assaulted and gather information about her condition and family. They developed a friendship that lasted for more than 45 years. Unfortunately, her friend never got over her assault, and Thomas resolved, “If I had an opportunity, I would make sure everybody has some type of follow up services that they would be able to receive after trauma of that nature.”
Members of the panel agreed that sexual assault should be treated as a public health issue. They discussed how assault and consent were not understood and that younger generations needed a more comprehensive understanding of what they are. David said, “We need to change the narrative.”
As far as the #MeToo movement, Thomas is excited for this movement and feels that this enables an engaging experience with large groups. “We have had some really powerful moments,” said Thomas. “This has been an eye opener that people have used to come together and unload some real serious trauma.”
Also discussed was the importance of engaging in a conversation, listening, and looking out for one another.
Haley Parish, ’19, appreciated the challenge of this topic. “It’s important to have students listen to speakers who are actively working in our city.”
Ashley Graham, ’21, found the topic to be important and relevant. She thought it was a great way to wrap up Women's History Month. “Equality [for women] is of paramount importance and it starts by vocalizing and emphasizing things that hinder women and pose as an obstacle. This is a great start for Meredith, women of color, and marginalized demographics as well.”
Other events held during the week included an information table in the Cate Center, a documentary Bystander Moment, and a workshop “Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault: What’s Neurobiology Got to Do With it?”