Community, Features, Impact

Student leaders create Be Safe Coalition to support survivors, pressure administration

Campus Survivors, an Instagram account led by Boston University students, was founded to be a space for sexual assault survivors to share their stories. Since May 2020, more than 250 accounts of sexual assault and harassment from college students at BU and beyond have been shared on the account.

Be Safe BU Instagram Account
The Be Safe BU Coalition Instagram account. ILLUSTRATION BY CONOR KELLEY

Boston University students subsequently held a protest last winter to demand the University address its mishandling of sexual assault cases and support survivors.

“After Campus Survivors had already been running for about a year, it was clear that the University wasn’t going to make a response to that unless we drew more attention to it and that’s why we launched the protest,” BU junior Annie Mayne said, “and we were just overwhelmed with the support of the protest.”

In early February, the University listened and began conversations with advocates, and students began to see a need for a more long-term solution in the aftermath of the protest.

In late July, leaders on campus created the BU Be Safe Coalition, @besafebostonu on Instagram, to create a safer campus for sexual assault survivors and to continue to push the administration to address the University’s shortcomings.

Mayne, a junior in the College of Communication and a co-founder of the coalition, said student leaders from different on-campus organizations started the coalition as a way to keep the momentum going after seeing the support students had for the February protest.

“We just felt like there needed to be a way for the community to organize around this issue,” Mayne said. “It’s really just a way to keep a list of community members and community organizations that are fighting for this issue and have them ready so that we can mobilize quickly.”

Mayne said the coalition was established so student organizations fighting sexual violence on campus could organize together. Other founders of the coalition include BU students Prisha Sujin Kumar, Savannah Majarwitz, Evan Teplensky, MJ Atang, Yashi Kataria, Sophia Kim and Gladys Vargas.

“Our goal is to just have this long-standing list of students to continue the pressure on the administration,” Mayne said, “and to continue to let them know that hey this is hundreds, if not thousands of students that care about this issue, and are watching how you respond to it.”

The coalition has 14 student organizations involved with it, such as 16K Strong, It’s On Us, BU on Tap and BU Young Democratic Socialists.

Mayne said the coalition has organized student organizations to create a network of allies outside of the administration to pressure them into listening if necessary. The coalition had its first meeting on Aug. 1 to prepare for the school year.

Alex Brumfield, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and the outreach coordinator of BU YDSA, said the YDSA decided to support the coalition because the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses is an “incredibly important” issue to the group.

“Sexual assault, especially on college campuses, is reprehensible,” Brumfield said, “and the BU administration has a lot to work on before anyone, survivor or ally, could ever be truly satisfied with the direction that it’s going.”

Members of the coalition have already begun meeting with University Provost Jean Morrison to discuss “survivor-friendly policies” at the University since last winter, Mayne said, but had initially struggled in getting the University to enforce those policies or address their demands.

However, Mayne added that because Massachusetts recently passed a law with policies helping victims of sexual violence on higher education campuses, she expects future meetings with Provost Morrison will be more effective as the coalition can now hold the University accountable for following or not following the law.

“We’re creating some informational infographics and stuff that we’re going to disseminate so that students know about the law, know what their new rights are,” Mayne said.

Mayne also said members of the coalition are also currently creating a code of ethics to establish group values and short-term goals.

For instance, the ‘red zone’ is a period usually during the start of the Fall semester when the majority of campus sexual assault cases occur. Brumfield said one of the coalition’s short-term goals was “to not only spread awareness of the red zone, but take active steps in preventing sexual assaults from happening during that case.”

Kristen Schallert, a CAS senior and president of BU It’s On Us, said she hopes the coalition pushes BU to change the way it handles sexual assault cases and create a more inclusive campus.

“We want survivors, if they choose to, to be able to come forward with their stories, get justice and then from that justice to be able to learn in a safe environment where the school doesn’t make it harder on them,” Schallert said.

Schallert said the coalition will be releasing information and policies over the next year regarding sexual assault. She said the coalition knows this may be re-traumatizing for sexual assault survivors and aims to put out as many trigger warnings as possible to make survivors feel safe.

“As the president of It’s On Us, that’s my personal goal, is to make survivors as comfortable as they possibly can be on campus.” Schallert said. “If they need anything at any time, and if they do feel triggered or traumatized by any of this, then we are reinstating our support group for It’s On Us … there is a network that’s here for them at any time.”

Ultimately, Mayne said she hopes that the coalition will push the University to enact better policies for sexual assault survivors in the long-term future.

“If we don’t [do something about sexual assault cases] then we’re gonna graduate, and the problem will just continue,” Mayne said. “We want to make this a long-standing kind of legacy that in five years, there’s still the’ BU Be Safe Coalition’ and … the work will continue, and the pressure will always be on the administration to fight for survivors.”

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One Comment

  1. The first step will be getting BUPD to stop protecting perps/illegally denying victims access to info about their own cases (see the Kevin Rivlin case).