GRC hosts second annual Walk with Me Dinner
Members of the Notre Dame community gathered for the April 10 Walk with Me Dinner to discuss how to support friends who have survived sexual assault.
The focus of the dinner was especially applicable for the Gender Relations Center’s (GRC) FIRE Starters and concerned students. Many events and opportunities focus on survivors of sexual assault, and this particular event bridged the education gap between the experiences of survivors and the experiences of survivors’ support systems.
Topics included types of reactions a friend can have to learning about an assault, ways to support a friend and practices of self-care. Josephine Dickinson of the University Counseling Center and Katie Rose of the Notre Dame Class of 2013 shared their respective experiences as counselor and advocate.
Dickinson discussed ways that individuals can respond to learning about a friend’s traumatic experience, explaining that there are many valid responses to this news.
Dickinson also addressed helpful verbal and physical cues that supporters can give survivors, as opposed to unhelpful or harmful cues. For example, hugging a survivor is positive only if he or she is comfortable with being touched. Also, “victim blaming” can be incredibly detrimental to a relationship and to a survivor’s strength; assurance to the survivor that you support them in whatever steps they take to heal can be empowering.
Rose told the powerful story of her experience as an SOS advocate during her years at Notre Dame. She emphasized the necessity and helpfulness of self-care tactics, such as taking meditative walks or allowing oneself to grieve the horrors one has witnessed. Rose also recommended relying on one’s support system. Sharing experiences can be necessary for someone who has witnessed second-hand the destructive effects of sexual assault, as long as the survivor’s confidentiality is respected.
Dickinson and Rose provided two very important tools to friends of survivors: First, a legitimation of the many feelings that can come from supporting a survivor and tools for how to help that friend, and second, an emphasis on the crucial aspect of self-care. The speakers did an excellent job addressing very difficult issues, and murmuring from the audience during the applause at the end of the program indicated that the students in attendance were grateful.
Amanda Downey of the GRC commented to the Rover about why the Center decided to put on this event. She explained that the purpose of the annual dinner is “to provide an opportunity for students to learn more about ways that they might be able to ‘walk with’ someone who has been sexually assaulted.”
She stated that this is the second year that the GRC has hosted this program, and that they intend to do so again next year.
If students are interested in participating in events regarding these issues before next year, they have two opportunities this week.
On Thursday, April 24, the GRC, along with Campus Ministry, PrismND, Belles Against Violence and other organizations, will be hosting Take Back the Night. The evening will kick off at 5:00 pm at Saint Mary’s College. A candlelight vigil will take place at the Notre Dame Grotto at 5:30, followed by a march around Notre Dame’s campus. The night will culminate in a Speak Out and Dinner at Legends at 6:30 pm.
Also, from April 22 to 25, members of the community will pass by the Clothesline Project outside of O’Shaughnessy Hall. The Clothesline Project features t-shirts with messages written on them, each color representing a different form of abuse, and is intended to raise awareness and show support.
For more information, contact the GRC at grc.nd.edu.
Abigail Bartels is a sophomore in Badin Hall. She dedicates this article to S and S, along with each friend beside whom she is honored to walk. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.