The crimson white | Notice

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The UA community does not have to look too far into its past to understand the pain and tragedy that comes with sexual assault.

In July 2015, UA student Megan Rondini was sexually assaulted. The psychological trauma suffered by her assault and her unsuccessful search for justice ultimately led Megan to take her own life in 2016.

There are many more cases of sexual assault that will go unreported and investigated on campus every year, month, week and day. No one should ever have to go through the harsh realities of sexual assault, and they should never have to do it alone.

There is no justice for Megan Rondini yet. No trial, no financial settlement, no criminal charge can ever bring her back. No punishment inflicted on her alleged attacker, TJ Bunn, Jr., can undo the irreparable damage inflicted on her. Megan is gone, and that can never change.

Everyone who has helped put their lives tragically cut short – from Bunn to local law enforcement to AU officials – has blood on their hands. They must be held accountable for the results of their actions.

To deny this is to dishonor Megan’s legacy and the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who are sexually assaulted every year.

Megan Rondini’s death was a tragedy, but preventable. Looking at the facts of his story, we see a tale of inaction and malice. There are dozens of people who – by taking a stand, following the proper protocol, telling the truth – could have prevented this assault from happening or made sure it did not go unpunished.

By their refusal to act, their intentional withholding of the truth, and their insistence on discrediting Megan, they pushed her story to its heartbreaking conclusion. Megan’s experience underscores the importance of prevention in the fight against sexual assault.

The way we can honor it is to prevent sexual assault. Rather than blaming the victims, we should be addressing this problem at its source.

Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault was founded three years ago with the goal of involving more male leaders on campus in discussions about sexual assault and preventing interpersonal violence. Men have long considered these problems taboo and ignored them. MARS believes it is high time for male leaders on campus, and everywhere, to step back and take action in the fight against sexual assault.

This is not to say that we claim to have all the answers and solutions to the complex epidemic that resides in a rape culture or that we should be celebrated as champions of women. MARS does not want the voices of men to stifle the powerful voices of women already wholeheartedly engaged in the fight.

We are proud to partner with some of these powerful voices in organizations on campus and at Tuscaloosa, including Not On My Campus, the Women and Gender Resource Center and the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center. Our goal is to reach out to our male peers, listen to these powerful voices with open ears and minds, and motivate others to actively work to prevent sexual assault.

MARS believes that the power to create meaningful change begins with education and awareness. Through education of our peers, we can effectively raise awareness of sexual assault and interpersonal violence.

Our education of our peers is threefold: teaching men to recognize the signs of interpersonal violence, caring for those who have been assaulted or abused, and holding perpetrators of sexual assault accountable. With this work, we hope to honor the legacy of all survivors of interpersonal violence and work towards a future that prevents stories like Megan’s from becoming a reality.

The main way we work to create meaningful change is through our interpersonal violence training sessions. Our training sessions are meant to be conversations rather than presentations. The PowerPoint is only there to facilitate the discussion.

After presenting our organization and its purpose, we present data to show the extent of sexual assault on our campus and across the country. Then we form a basis of understanding for the group. Many people may not be familiar with the language used to discuss topics such as interpersonal violence or rape culture.

After discussing the general problems, we dive into the actions that constitute the problem. Sexual assault, domestic dating / violence, criminal harassment, sexual harassment and trauma are all addressed so that tangible issues can be understood.

The training also teaches participants how to be effective spectators. We all know that spectator intervention is difficult to train, so we bring the perspectives of the audience and encourage them to share their experiences as spectators.

The current spotlight on sexual assault on college campuses has made students aware of its insidious presence. We hope it will also hold universities accountable for the social cultures they tolerate on their own campuses.

Toxic masculinity has become so blinding that the men on our campus don’t feel the need to listen to women’s voices. Creating an environment of responsible and respectful men on campus requires having difficult conversations about sex and gender roles. This is exactly what the members of MARS aim to do.

Awareness: Promote prevention of interpersonal violence.

Alliance: Encourage men to ally with victims of sexual assault.

Responsibility: Hold other men accountable for their actions and speak the truth to power in the pursuit of justice.

We have waited far too long while those around us have suffered. It’s time for us to step away from others and become active participants in eradicating the culture of rape from our campus and community.

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