As many of you all know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As a Peer Educator and Victim advocate, it is my duty to Winona State to educate our students and staff about Gender-Based Violence, and provide assistance to those who have experienced GBV.

This is something I am passionate about because I am a survivor of sexual assault. If I can save one person from experiencing GBV, I can say I have made it all the difference. If I can teach one person how to intervene and prevent GBV I can say I have not only saved a life, but I have strengthened our force here on Campus.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month may be over, but there are still many ways to stay involved on and off campus. Today I’m going to talk about the steps that we have taken as a university this year towards ending GBV, and introduce more ways for you to become involved now and in the future.

The Year in Review

 It has been a pleasure to work with many student organizations, as well as faculty, by educating them about the Recognizing Equality Initiative, and getting our campus PACT trained. PACT stands for Prevent. Act. Challenge. Teach. The RE Initiative is committed to responding appropriately to GBV; reimagining and implementing effective prevention strategies; and redefining campus culture.

This year, Student Senate and Students United worked together to encourage Minnesota State Schools to adopt Affirmative Consent policies. This semester, Winona State unanimously passed to adopt the guidelines for Affirmative Consent. I have never been prouder of this university for listening to its student’s voices.

Get involved by joining the RE initiative

RE initiative matters on our campus because it helps shed light on what is an unfortunately a relevant issue. As of now, our campus does not accurately reflect the sexual assaults that occur on our campus. Due to lack of reporting, and lack of knowledge about GBV.

We educate people on how to stop GBV, including sexual assault from happening, and it’s one of the best things that I could be a part of during my time as a college student.

Collaboration to End GBV: Get involved On Campus

 I have been involved in other student organizations that fight GBV on our campus as well, such as: Panhellenic, Student Senate, and Students United. Panhellenic offered wonderful leadership opportunities, which really taught me to be a leader.

 However, these are not the only ones. Other organizations including Tau Kappa Epsilon, WSU Athletics, Sigma Tau Gamma, Alpha Sigma Tau, FORGE, and others have partnered with the RE Initiative to educate their individual members about sexual assault and how to actively stop GBV on our campus.

If you want to get involved on a higher level, I would suggest getting to know your district senators. Vote for candidates whose values align with your own! The only way we can get senators to listen to our voices is to be a voting member of society.

Why it Matters: Your Community

It is important to fight and address sexual assault on our campus because it allows victims voices to be heard, as well as teaches the community to hold others accountable to their actions. Everyone is entitled to their bodies and their privacy.

This is your community. WSU is the only Minnesota State University that has a RE Initiative program implemented on their campus.

Our motto is “ A Community of Learners Improving Our World.” A community that looks out for each other is a community that I want to be a part of.

-Zaria Smith, ’19