Silence to Sound: Combating Sexual Assault on College Campuses

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Today, our society is facing numerous problems but people often forget or choose to ignore an epidemic that affects so many young people today:  sexual assault on college campuses. Individuals think that it would never happen to them or anyone they love—their brothers, sisters, mothers, or even their friends—but, unfortunately, this is not the case.  I, personally, came to this realization when I found out that my friend was sexually assaulted.  After hearing this story, I knew I needed to do something to bring awareness about the issue of sexual assault on college campuses so that no one will have to experience what my friend and so many others had to go through.

When I found out that the Millennium Campus Network was giving an opportunity to students to create their own campaign about an issue that they were passionate about, I knew that this would be the best way to help those who have been sexually assaulted. I was overjoyed when I received the official email that my campaign was selected.  Immediately following the launch of my campaign, Silence to Sound, in August 2016, at the 8th annual Millennium Campus Network Conference in D.C. at Howard University, my team and I began working diligently to spread our message and promote the Silence to Sound campaign throughout our campus.  In order to reach out other individuals besides those who attend College of the Holy Cross, we have set up social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. These accounts give the most up-to-date information regarding our progress and how to be involved in our mission.  We have launched our website On the website, one can find out about my team, global webinars we have done sponsored by MCN, a database filled with resources for victims of sexual assault, personalized for each college campus and much more. We are working with the BARCC, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and they have graciously helped us with some of the resources available to survivors at different campuses in Massachusetts. As of right now, though, our resource list only consists of some schools in Massachusetts and is, therefore, not fully comprehensive because we lack the personnel to research for us. We are looking for volunteer researchers to help us with this database.  In April, we were able to partner with the Women’s Forum, a student-run organization at my school, in order to have a “Take Back the Night” walk where men and women marched in silence with lit candles around the campus in remembrance of survivors of sexual assault.

As we get closer to our first year mark since our launch, we have some new goals. We wish to have a team of researchers in order to have more of a complete list available for survivors of sexual assault so that they can get the support and help that they need. We are also hoping to begin partnering with other organizations that share our same mission of ending sexual assault on college campuses as well as students at other universities who share the same ideals.  In addition, we continue to seek funding in order to expand this campaign.  We are hoping to receive money from the Ignite Fund from the College of the Holy Cross, a program designed to give funding to student-based projects that can help the community, after we present our ideas and progress in the fall when school has resumed.  This will really help us to maximize the impact we can make on not only my own college campus but on others as well.

Men and women alike should be able to receive their education and receive a degree without the fear of sexual assault. We can be the ones to motivate people to take off the blindfold that shields them from the truth about rape on college campuses and make them see the horrible reality of it. We, young leaders of the future; however, must remember one thing: change is possible but our generation needs to have the passion, determination and perseverance to make that change happen. As our former United States President Theodore Roosevelt most eloquently said, "Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind." We need our words to turn into action, but it has to start with us- the architects of the better and brighter future. People will hear our voice but only if we make a sound.

By: Jessica Russo

Oceans Campaign Update: Pitch Presentations!

During the first week of March, the Clean Street, Clean Sea campaign applied to a challenge named Innov'Pap, organized by a local youth group. It was selected among the best initiatives.

On Saturday March 18, Clean Street Clean Sea presented a two-minute pitch and connected with two keys enterprises, HaiPlast & Recycling SA and CEDEL Haiti. The first is a local enterprise involving in the waste management sector, particularly plastic; and the second is a social enterprise that supports entrepreneurship in Haiti.

LGBTQ Asylum & the Global Refugee Crisis

 by Alex, AsylumConnect Secretary

On October 20th, the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) hosted a webinar with AsylumConnect on LGBTQ Asylum and the refugee crisis. I am the Secretary for the AsylumConnect team, which is part of the Millennium Campus Network's Peace Campaign. We had two fantastic speakers for the webinar, both of whom are advisors to AsylumConnect.

Fernando Chang-Muy is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and an expert in refugee law and policy. He gave attendees an overview of how the U.N. and the U.S. defined a refugee as a person who is unwilling or unable to return to his or her home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. LGBTQ asylum seekers cite the “social group” part of the definition as to why they have a fear of persecution.

Missed the live forum? Watch the recording here!

Chang-Muy took several questions from the audience, and one person asked if there is a refugee cap that the United States is willing to accept. Chang-Muy explained that the cap is 70,000 people divided between the 5 parts of the world (South America, Africa, etc.). The President said he would raise it to 80,000 people for the next year, and 10,000 spots will be reserved for Syrian refugees. It is the President who determines this cap. And the allotment divided throughout the world is fluid. If more spots are needed for a particularly war-torn area, the allotment for a peaceful part of the world can be minimized.

Trying to prove you are actually LGBTQ can be a challenge. Sometimes the only evidence is your own word.

Chang-Muy also spoke to the particular challenges LGBTQ asylum seekers face. Trying to prove you are actually LGBTQ can be a challenge. Sometimes the only evidence is your own word. For example, if you were in the closet in your home country, you do not have anyone to testify on your behalf. Also, it can be hard to prove you will be persecuted in your country of origin. Perhaps a country may seemingly be LGBTQ-friendly in its urban or tourist areas, but LGBTQ people could be severely discriminated against in rural areas.

Jacque Larrainzar, another AsylumConnect advisor, also spoke to her experience as an LGBTQ Refugee/Immigrant Outreach Specialist at Seattle Counseling Service (SCS). Larrainzar is the first lesbian from Mexico to receive asylum in the U.S. due to sexual orientation, and knows first hand how hard the process can be. She applied in 1997 and it took three years to be completed. Her current work includes creating specific training for mental health providers on the specific needs of asylees or immigrants or undocumented immigrants.  Larrainzar gave a great anecdote about her conversation with a girl in her 20's who is an asylee from Somalia. One thing she wants people to understand is that LGBTQ asylees are resilient, and should be acknowledged for their strength in overcoming adversity.

LGBTQ asylees are resilient, and should be acknowledged for their strength in overcoming adversity.

Finally, Katie Sgarro, Co-founder of AsylumConnect, spoke about what her organization is working on. AsylumConnect is a volunteer initiative that will seek to provide LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. with lifesaving online informational resources. We are working towards creating the first website and mobile app to feature an online, centralized database of service providers useful to LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. The AsylumConnect catalog will help persecuted LGBTQ people find basic human needs resources upon their arrival in the U.S. It is estimated that our work will benefit 300,000 LGBTQ asylum seekers. We are currently working on a model of the catalog focused on services in Seattle, Washington.

Stay tuned for the next MCN webinar by AsylumConnect and visit to learn more about us.

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