March at Sonoma State will raise awareness of sexual assault, consent
The organizer of a march and rally planned for Saturday to raise awareness of sexual assault and the importance of consent said she was motivated by her own experiences ?as a survivor.
“I experienced a lot of shame and denial,” said Sonoma State University senior Lauren Quinn about her assault. “In a way, this march has allowed me to accept what has happened to me. ... I just want to prevent it from happening to other people.”
The “March for Consent” will focus on educating Sonoma State students - and anyone else who attends - about what consent means and looks like, Quinn said. She added that she wants students to understand they must always receive and respect consent from others.
The march will start about 10:30 a.m. at the Arbor and Lakes on the university’s campus and will go to Rohnert Park Expressway, Snyder Lane and East Cotati Avenue before returning to the campus for a rally around noon.
There, several speakers will address consent and sexual assault, including Quinn; the university’s Confidential Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocate, Susan Pulido; Rohnert Park Mayor Gina Belforte and Rohnert Park Council member Susan Hollingsworth Adams.
Quinn said she started organizing the event after she noticed an increase in reported sexual assault cases on the college campus through “timely warnings,” which universities are required to release under federal law when certain crimes that pose a threat to students are reported to campus authorities.
“I just felt really uneasy about it,” Quinn said of the warnings. “I just felt like no one was talking about it.”
At least 10 rapes were reported at Sonoma State University in 2017. More recent data was not immediately available Wednesday.
About 20%-25% of college women and 15% of college men are “victims of forced sex during their time in college,” according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
“The fact that there are any sexual assaults on campus is not OK at any time,” said Mo Phillips, the school’s director of student involvement, who helped Quinn organize the event. “Our goal is zero. Any amount is too many.”
To help cover some of the costs, Quinn created a GoFundMe page. Any money not used for the event - as well as the proceeds from T-shirts that will be sold at the event - will be donated to the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services, the Student Health Center and Verity, Sonoma County’s rape crisis center.
Phillips, who plans to attend the event, said she hopes it will teach students that consent is “enthusiastic and positive.”
“We’re always trying to educate our students and to have a student educate our students, that’s really wonderful,” Phillips said. “If a couple students learn something that they didn’t know before, then it’s worth it.”
While Quinn is graduating at the end of the semester, she wants to make sure that March for Consent will continue next year.
Belforte said she believes events like these are important to the community. She added that when she was in college, some of her friends and classmates were sexually assaulted, and that it’s “despicable” that this is an issue that has increased on college campuses since then.
“I think any time you have anything that’s increasing negatively, then you have to shine a spotlight on it,” Belforte said. “That’s what this march, hopefully ... will do.”