UMD Hosts #MeToo Awareness Conference on Sexual Assault Prevention

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: April 20, 2019 11:10 PM

UMD is raising awareness on sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention through a weekend conference that opened discussion for professionals, community members, and students to learn about resources and prevention efforts.

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"This is the first time we are having a conference on campus on this issue not just because of the #MeToo hashtag movement but this was a much needed discussion that we needed to have,” Devaleena Das, a UMD faculty on Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the organizer of the #MeToo Awareness: Gender, Healthy & Justice Conference, said.

Educating the community on what is being done to prevent sexual assault and helping survivors of sexual violence is what UMD’s #MeToo Awareness Conference was focused on.

"Sexual assault is so prevalent on college campuses and often times it's overlooked and students don't know the resources that they have,” Sara Minder, an intern for UMD’s Women's Resource & Action Center, said. 

The conference featured panels that discussed important topics like criminal justice and legal responses to sexual assault, healthcare and sexual violence, advocacy, and more.

"We are talking about the services and referrals we do for victims and survivors of sexual assault, especially students here at UMD,” Susana Pelayo Woodward, a director for UMD’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, said.

"I'm a sexual assault advocate, I was trained through the program for victims of sexual assault and I’ve been an intern for three years so this is a topic that's really important to me and it’s an important piece of work we do on campus,” Minder said.

A diverse group of experts and professionals who work with sexual assault victims provided crucial insight on the affects sexual assault has to victims and raising awareness on the issue.

"What I like about the conference is being able to have a space where we can all come together and engage in conversations,” Pelayo Woodward said.

The #MeToo movement is a platform that gave sexual assault survivors a voice. The takeaway from the conference is to continue giving survivors a voice, so that their not afraid to get help, and working on efforts to fight against sexual assault to create safer environments.

"This is creating hope already. This is giving a kind of environmental feeling that the college campus could be a safe space where we can open up and talk and get help and support to discuss this issue,” Das said.

The conference wraps up Sunday with a restorative yin yoga at the Duluth Yoga Studio at 10 a.m.


Alejandra Palacios

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