Fordham's Speaking Out
Read Time: 5 min
By Victoria Munoz
Vulnerable. Brave. Connected. These were a few of the feelings I had last week as I walked out of the annual Women’s Empowerment Sexual Assault Speakout. In the intimate setting of Rodrigue’s Coffee House, I immediately felt comforted and welcomed by a room full of strangers. These unfamiliar faces were all individuals who were coming together to both share their own experiences, and to validate other’s experiences with sexual assault and harassment.
Among the crowd at the speakout happened to be Maddy Allison and Danielle Gallagher, both co-chairs to Fordham’s It’s On Us chapter. It’s On Us is a national organization that works to educate, engage, and empower students to end sexual assault. Fueled by stories like the ones shared at the speakout, Gallagher and Allison became involved with It’s On Us.
“I was sitting in the library one day, and I was thinking about how I needed to make something of myself.” Gallagher stated, “I no longer wanted to identify as a victim, so I thought to join It's On Us to help me claim my identity as a survivor.”
It’s On Us, with the help of Gallagher and Allison, has promoted this concept of “identifying as a survivor” and supporting survivors in our Fordham community. Their “Week Of Action” is on October 29-November 2; five entire days dedicated to create events and conversations that work to end sexual assault and its stigma. Among these events will be the Clothesline Project - which is, in Allison’s own words, a “beautiful mixture of messages of hope, anger, support, and love” right in front of the McGinley Center.
Allison says McGinley signifies “a central place on campus where people who may never think about sexual assault have a chance to pause and reflect.” This annual project, according to Gallagher, “allows survivors to share their feelings and experiences on a shirt, while also advocating for allies to write messages of support and love for survivors.”
Projects such as these aim to not only highlight the brutal realities of sexual assault, but also to place responsibility on the Fordham student body as a whole. “I am certainly guilty of not being mobilized around this issue until it got very close to me, and I think that is true for many people,” commented Allison. “It's important for our community to take note of the fact that sexual assault happens on our campus, and we all have a role to play in stopping that. It’s on us - no one is exempt of this work.”
The mission of It’s On Us to end sexual assault is not an overnight task. It involves becoming an active bystander when you notice someone feeling uncomfortable. It involves not only listening to survivors, but believing them. It involves “holding our friends accountable for the things they say and the narratives they perpetuate and accepting nothing less than an enthusiastic agreement when it comes to consent” as Allison stated.
Attending the Speakout is bittersweet; sweet in the sense that survivors don’t feel so isolated any longer, and bitter in the fact that so many men and women have been and are still being sexually assaulted. With 321,500 individuals experiencing sexual assaulted each year, the web of survivors is ever-growing. Thankfully - so is their network of allies.
After listening to each person’s experience at the Speakout, the room full of unfamiliar faces became a room full of fierce warriors and loyal supporters. I realized this exact moment of strength through vulnerability is what It’s On Us works to replicate in every community- not just at Fordham. It’s On Us, with the help of Gallagher, Allison, Women’s Empowerment, and Fordham students, works relentlessly to make our community nothing less than fierce warriors and loyal abettors. It’s not just up to these brave individuals to end sexual assault and misconduct on our campus. Fordham, this is on us.
Candy and Consent will be hosted by the USG Committee on Sexual Misconduct x It’s On Us on Wednesday, October 31st 11a.m to 1p.m in the Mcginley Lobby
“The Talk” with Father Lito will take place Tuesday, October 30th at 7p.m in Mcginley 237
Follow It’s On Us on instagram: @itsonus_fordham