Written by // Cailin McNamara
The news was a surprise to many in Lynchburg.
Two Liberty University student athletes were accused of sexual assault charges and dismissed from the football team.
“This was a complete shock to me,” Sharon Asebe, Liberty University senior, said.
“I have been in classes with these two and never thought something like this could happen so close to me.”
October is domestic violence awareness month. The Liberty University Title IX office and LU Shepherds hosted their first #SPEAKUP prayer vigil in front of DeMoss hall to show support for victims domestic violence.
Valerie Dufort, Liberty’s Title IX assistant director, was in charge of the prayer vigil that is a part of an awareness campaign that lasts the whole month.
“Although this does not have to do with the things that have been going on in the media, people are starting to take notice that abuse can happen to anyone,” Dufort said.
Prior to the vigil, Title IX had tables set up at the Tilley, Reber-Thomas and the Montview student union handing out paper hands.
These hands were being filled out with names or initials of someone that has or is dealing with domestic abuse. Even if someone has not been affected by abuse, they have written a verse, a prayer or just words of encouragement.
Over 400 hands were filled out and were hanging up around the area of the prayer vigil.
“We did not expect to get as many hands filled out as we did, it was overwhelming,” Dufort said. “Just seeing the hands everywhere will emphasize that this is a problem, even in our tiny community.”
The LU Shepherds, the Title IX office, the dean of students, and community life were there to help lead in prayer. Students, faculty and staff were all encouraged to come and stand together and pray for the affected.
Sydney Malcolm, junior at Liberty University, did not realize how much of an issue domestic violence was until seeing so many people filling out hands at Reber-Thomas.
“I was raised in a bubble when it comes to this…I have grown up with such great family and friends I never knew these types of things went on so closely around me,” Malcolm said. “It’s a real eye opener.”
Every year schools are required to put out a Clery report. By law this report is required to be relased by every college and university across the United States. The report details what crimes are reported on or near campus.
The Clery report was created in honor of Jeanne Clery who was raped and murdered in 1986 in her dorm room by a fellow student.
Clery’s parents championed laws requiring colleges and universities, public and private, to disclose campus crime to the public and impose certain requirements for handling acts of sexual violence and emergency situations.
The federal law was passed in 1990.
In 2015 Liberty University had a total of one rape case, two in 2014.
By comparison, the University of Virginia, which is rather close in student size, had at total of 59 rape cases in 2014, among many other assault cases.
“We wish the number of cases we had at Liberty was zero but we are doing our best to keep that number as low as possible,” Dufort said.
Liz Doherty, sophomore at Liberty, has had personal experiences with abuse growing up.
“This month is always hard for me because it brings up old memories,” Doherty said. “The prayer vigil was hard for me to get through but I enjoyed the support.”
Stephany Steger, Liberty’s Title IX administrative assistant, helped design #SPEAKUP. This was developed to encourage people to speak up about their abuse.
#SPEAKUP was created because of Proverbs 31:8-9, which talks about speaking up for all of those who cannot speak up for themselves.
“Domestic violence is a serious issue that goes on everywhere,” Steger said. “Title IX created this event to help bring awareness and let people know that they are not alone.”
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