Outrage from the recent on-campus sexual assaults and frustration against Cal Poly itself was the topic of text conversation between seniors Grace Battles and Maggie Freadman that eventually evolved into an upcoming campus-wide event — CP Standing with Survivors.
The event will be held in the University Union on Wednesday Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. and is hosted by Women in Business and The Women’s Network. It will feature other women-focused clubs and a lineup of guest speakers, including survivor and actress Brianna Michelle and San Luis Obispo mayor and Cal Poly Assistant Director of Personnel and Marketing for Campus Health & Wellbeing Erica Stewart.
Battles, a business senior and president of Women in Business, a club focused on empowering students with the skills needed to succeed through connection and mentorship, said she grew frustrated with a lack of perceived care from faculty and administration.
“There’s always this blanket email from the administration that says, ‘This is what happened; We’re here to support you — mental health, therapists, etc,’” Battles said. “There’s no follow up on what they’re doing to make it better.”
Part of this responsibility to improve the current situation weighs on the student body, she said.
“As students we need to put pressure on the administration consistently,” Battles said. “[We need to] get action items and goals that they’re going to put in place, and then have a way to hold them accountable throughout the years until it’s solidified.”
While thinking of all the women-focused entities on campus, the pair thought, “What if we pull everyone together to start that conversation that is not happening?”
The event blossomed from there, Battles said.
“I want this to be a message to our school that we really care about this and it should be a top priority, not only because of recent events, but especially because of recent events,” she said.
Freadman, a business senior and president of Cal Poly’s The Women’s Network, a chapter of a nation-wide network that prepares women to achieve professional success and cultivate ambition, hopes the event will create a space for support and healing — a space Cal Poly needs.
“[Survivors themselves] are suffering in silence because they haven’t said anything to anybody, and it’s definitely something that needs to have a space to be able to connect and heal together,” Freadman said.
Already, Freadman has noticed an overwhelming positive response. After posting the graphic on her social media, a male friend of hers immediately reached out saying “I’ll be there; when is it?” She said this support for survivors from men surprised her, and further fueled her excitement for the event.
Freadman points to the fact that Cal Poly has had a range of scandals in the past, not living up to an image of a safe school. She said this advocacy and visibility for survivors can help set a new tone and reputation for Cal Poly.
Actress, model, survivor and founder of the nonprofit, Voices Beyond Assault, Michelle will speak at the Wednesday event. After surviving a rape during college, she committed herself to advocating against sexual assault.
On Wednesday, along with personal details, Michelle said she will share statistics of sexual assault while in college, inter-partner sexual violence and consent.
“I plan to share my story of being sexual[ly] assault while in college, the challenges I faced, still finishing college, my healing journey, thriving past trauma, graduating and starting my own nonprofit to support and empower survivors of sexual violence through resources, innovative therapy and survivorship,” Michelle said.
“There is not enough education about the statistics, information or stories being told to change the narrative and to have students feel safe on and off campus,” she said.
Michelle hopes to leave lasting impacts on Cal Poly — on an intimate and regulatory level.
“I hope to inspire and empower the audience that they can overcome and thrive past trauma but also open their hearts and mine to those that have been affected by it as well,” Michelle said. “I also seek to have campus officials become more responsible in protecting their students and holding assailants fully responsible for their actions.”
Organizers are asking attendees to wear purple in honor of last week’s Purple Thursday and October being domestic violence awareness month.