Hope is alive and kicking on the campus of St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. This month, being sexual abuse awareness month, I walked into more awareness then I thought possible in one town, on one college with 2400 people. SLU has a student organization called The Advocates. Check out their stats: The Advocates run a 24-hour hotline and offer counseling, hospital accompaniment and judicial advocacy. With 230 members there are 100 trained to hold the hotline phone, 80 members are CRCC (Certified Rape Crisis Counselors in the State of NY) who they trained through Planned Parenthood. On of the back of their official jackets they announce: Ask me about consent. Brilliant!
I got there all because I met The Advocates’ President, Isis Flores, at a New Year’s Eve party in Yonkers, NY. What a delight it was for this 70-year-old second wave feminist to connect with a twenty first century sexual violence activist. Ultimately, Isis got The Advocates to sponsor a performance of What She Knows as one of their TEAL Week events. She also got several other groups as sponsors: Stand By Me, the SLU Democrats and The Women’s Resource Center.
During the performance a girl in the front row started to cry while I sang Over the Rainbow at the end of the suicide attempt scene. I wanted to jump off the stage and go hug her, whisper in her ear, “It’s OK, It’ll be OK.” Luckily I got plenty of hugs the next morning – having breakfast with the Advocates Executive Committee. (see photo above)
What a bunch of amazing people they are. Their dedication, their smart ways of taking care of each other while responding with multiple layers of support to all who are dealing with sexual violence is just plain remarkable. Hearing all they are doing and working on I made a pronouncement, “You’ve got to get an independent study to take what you’ve learned and your successes to other campuses!” There’s so much chaos and confusion swirling around so many campuses and this band of mighty advocates have some tried and true answers to pass along; two of the most important being – have a tribe of smart, dedicated students hell bent on making a difference and a college administration that supports them fully. Bingo – perfect combo.
During breakfast Isis leaned into me and said, “I got a text from a guy in the audience last night." He said, “Thanks, I’ll remember tonight for the rest of my life.” I’m deeply grateful for the hope and inspiration this group gave me and you can get a dose too by going to their website www.stlawu.edu/advocates