COLLEGIAN GOES BEYOND PROMOTING HER CHAPTER TO MAKING AN IMPACT ON HER CAMPUS ARTICLE BY ABBEY BAKO, COMMUNICATIONS INTERN; 0 INTERVIEW BY KRISTEN ARCHER, SENIOR MULTIMEDIA MANAGE Most people have a very narrow view of what sexual assault is: It is easily avoidable, as long as one is never alone at night and stays away from most strangers. The reality is 82 percent of assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor. After sexual assault, survivors are often confused, as well as emotionally and physically hurt, as they seek help and support. Eta Kappa-Northeastern's former vice president-public relations, Grace Fernandez, although not a survivor herself, saw the heavy burden sexual assault placed on women in her chapter who had experienced it and was determined to create an awareness of the resources available to all survivors. She made a lasting impact on her campus the day she asked herself one question after her election to her chapter council: "What can I make happen in our community and how can I leverage the other council members to make this happen?" Her goal was to turn her council position into something that inspired action. In April 2016, Grace used KD and the platform of support given to her by her fellow council officers and sisters to create a weeklong sexual assault awareness campaign that has taken over her campus for two consecutive years. When she came to Northeastern, Grace's understanding of Greek life was based on her friends' and their parents' experiences at larger state schools. By her sophomore year, she was drawn to the service and leadership-based focus of the Greek organizations. Grace saw women join Kappa Delta for reasons beyond friendship. She says, "They were doing something I wanted to be doing by making a difference in the lives of those around them." Grace says joining KD gave her multiple leadership opportunities, real-world work experience while on council, and the ability to become a confident and well-rounded woman. When describing the women in her chapter, Grace says: "This is the most hard-working group of people I have ever met. They are constantly motivated. No one in our chapter room is willing to settle. There is so much forward momentum." This forward momentum is evident in Grace's story, as her sisters inspired her to spur a sense of action in others when she was elected VP-PR for her chapter. Grace says it was the other members' confidence that "you could feel in the room" that pushed her to be more and do more. The older members whom she looked up to said they saw leadership potential in her, which was the moment she began to actively pursue more leadership opportunities within her chapter. "They told me, 'You can do whatever you want, and we can help you get there,' " Grace says. Her understanding and confidence in her leadership abilities began to grow as she took on more responsibility; she realized that a leader isn't simply a figurehead or someone at the front of the room inspiring others. Her role in the chapter became much more hands-on and personal as she began to mentor the younger members, much like others did for her. Grace wanted to turn their ideas into a reality, as she strongly believes that instilling confidence in others is also a way to build confidence in yourself. Alongside communicating effectively, she used her newfound confidence from KD to build talents in areas she didn't know she was lacking – learning how to delegate, working with and managing a chain of command, as well as figuring out how to tailor conversations for success and foster transparency. Grace says she "finally worked up the courage to run for council," and landed a spot as VP-PR, a title that was previously devoted to social media, branding and working on the chapter's image. Using her new audience, she decided to create an initiative similar to Confidence Weeks hosted by other KD chapters. She didn't want people to just see posts and campaign materials, though. Grace wanted students to feel called to action so strongly they would want to help then and there, so she provided materials on the spot to help them take action. She landed on the topic of sexual assault because the aftermath of it was something that hit home with many sisters in her chapter. "People were unfamiliar with the resources, what happens when assaults are reported, and many carried shame from their experiences. I wanted to find a way to show the women of my chapter that not only are they surrounded by support in Eta Kappa, but our campus is equipped with teams of people and lifelines that want to help." By creating this awareness campaign, she provided every person on campus with a way to help, regardless of their experience with sexual assault, by talking about the numerous resources available to everyone that are useful and anonymous. Although there are many options regarding reporting and receiving help and support after an assault, only one out of every six collegiate women will receive help, either out of fear of stigmatization or lack of knowledge on the topic. Grace and her team put together a panel of standards board members from other sororities and walked through what to do if a report was given to them – whom to go to, the correct official for each instance, etc. Around 70 women attended. Additionally, they held a self-defense class and participated in Take Back the Night, a national event that is a sign of support for survivors of sexual assault and violence. They even planned a basketball game where participants took a pledge of solidarity against sexual assault. To finish the week, every Greek organization on campus took a stand against sexual assault in a video that Grace and her team filmed. Although Grace may have felt motivated to make a difference on her campus, she says she wouldn't have had the resources or platform without Kappa Delta. Having her sisters stand beside her at each event was eye-opening and life-changing. She says, "I never would have been able to do it without KD." Grace believes Greek life is for people who want to live their values and make an impact. When hearing the title "VP-PR," she thought of more than social media and marketing – she thought of the KD brand and built confidence in her sisters while inspiring positive action in her community. did you know? Every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape during her lifetime; one in every 33 men will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime. About 50 percent of college sexual assaults happen within the first four months of the starting semester. Source: www.rainn.org
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