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Editor’s Note: This story was written by Jordan Modjeski for COM201 Beginning Newswriting. 

Lauryn Folker, a freshman student at Saint Mary’s University, is raising awareness for sexual assault victims through the sale of T-shirts in the month of April.

April is universally known as sexual assault awareness month, and Folker wants to make sure everyone in her community understands the weight of this issue in society. Folker has taken a special interest in this, as the issue is very close to her own heart, having had her own life-altering experience in the past.

In addition to her goal of raising awareness, she said, “Campuses are small. This can happen to anyone. By supporting each other we can start making a change for things like this not to happen anymore.”

Through the sale of a simple T-shirt, Folker hopes to reach as many people as she can. In just a week, she already has approximately 60 people ready to back her cause.

The T-shirts will be white and read, “Speak out against sexual assault,” on the front, and the back of the shirt will sport the hashtag “#metoo,” which has been a universally recognized calling card for the issue of sexual assault in the past few years. Folker intends on having every participant wear the shirt on April 1, but also whenever they can, as she said that this issue goes beyond just the month of April. Each shirt will cost approximately $7, depending on the total number of participants she is able to gather.

She is not alone in this pursuit of awareness.

Folker has approached several of the sports teams at SMU, taking sizes and names down as she goes. Folker first approached the women’s ice hockey team, as she is a member of the large freshman class the team has brought in for the 2018-19 season. Concerning the support of her teammates, she said, “There were lots of hugs, lots of love. It’s definitely really hard to console someone who has been through something like that, especially if you might not understand it. But definitely just saying, ‘I’m here for you,’ or giving me a hug, it means the world to me.”

Folker intends to reach out to all of the athletes at Saint Mary’s, as her own experience involved the sports community in a major way. However, the fact that sports are a male-dominated culture has proposed itself as a bit of a challenge to Folker, as she has had to address many male sports teams and male coaches. “I feel like with male teams, it’s a little more difficult [to address the team] because I feel like they see it as more of a female issue, even though it’s definitely a universal issue. I know a lot of the coaches have been really supportive especially when I’ve asked [to speak to the teams].”

Beyond coaches, Folker has reached out to other university officials, including Athletic Director Brian Sisson and Dean of Students Charissa Jakusz. Folker will be meeting with both staff members in the near future to discuss her goals and the best way to reach the most people. Folker was also invited to a committee meeting held by Jakusz, where she will be able to be a part of the process for university event planning for the month of April.

In terms of spreading awareness for the t-shirt campaign, Folker listed social media as the best way to reach as many people as possible. “That has definitely gotten a little bit of a buzz,” she said regarding the impact media has gotten so far.

When dealing with the struggle of sexual assault, the best advice Folker had to give was to “keep an open mind and an open heart and be there when other people need it, especially if this is happening to someone close to you.”

In her own experiences, she found that having a close-knit support group made an unbearable situation far easier to handle. “My parents, my best friends, my boyfriend, and obviously the people I worked with on my trial were definitely the biggest supporters that have been there for me, and without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

While this issue is very personal for Folker, she believes that you do not have to be a victim of sexual assault to speak out on it. “Change starts to happen when someone starts to talk about it.”

In terms of ordering a T-shirt, a campus-wide email was issued on March 12 detailing the process. To contact Folker regarding her T-shirt campaign, email her at lefolk17@smumn.edu or reach out to her on any of her social media sites.

 

 

 

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