STARS executive board hopes to educate students on sexual violence prevention

In addition to their previous event Rock Against Rape, the RSVP Center will host more events, such as Take Back the Night and the Vagina Monologues.
Members of the STARS organization from the RSVP Center lead a “Take Back the Night” march on the MU campus. The STARS acronym stands for Stronger Together Against Relationship and Sexual Violence. Courtesy of the RSVP Center

The new executive board of Stronger Together Against Relationship and Sexual Violence has one goal this year: to combat rape on a cultural level.

The 2015-16 board is made up of sophomores Hannah Feagan, Deja Mackey, Katie Williams and Khaliyah Frazier. STARS meets once a week in the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center where they discuss plans for future events and a specified topic.

This year, the organization’s focus is to make sure that their main event, Take Back the Night, is better than ever and to play a bigger part in the planning of Vagina Monologues.

The STARS president, sophomore Hannah Feagan, hails from Webb City and is currently double majoring in history and women’s and gender studies. Feagan first became involved with STARS after a friend invited her to a meeting. At that point, the club only had four members. Feagan decided to officially join STARS and became a part of the planning committee after that meeting.

“It means a lot to me to put an end to interpersonal violence, specifically violence against women, because it disproportionately affects (them) and that’s very close to my heart and something I’m passionate about,” Feagan said.

As president, she hopes to raise more awareness about the club and sexual violence against women through social media along with participating in more tabling events, an effort to engage students. In regard to sexual assaults on MU’s campus, Feagan believes that the campus climate survey speaks for itself.

“I just think that when the campus climate survey came out and almost 30 percent of undergraduate women said they have experienced completed and uncompleted acts of sexual violence that it says a lot about our campus,” Feagan said.

She also cites a change in rape culture as being the solution in order to lower the amount of sexual assaults on campus.

“Change can happen,” Feagan said. “It’s just hard because it has to happen at a cultural level to really have an effect.”

Every president needs a left hand, and that is exactly what sophomore Deja Mackey is to Feagan. Mackey, a sophomore from Oak Park, Illinois, is a women’s and gender studies major and also the new vice president and event coordinator of STARS. Initially, Mackey entered MU as a social work major, but she later realized women and gender studies was the path for her after starting to work in the Women’s Center, which prompted her to be an RSVP peer educator.

“Everything came full circle,” Mackey said. “I was finding words for concepts that I had in my head my whole life, so I switched my major and never felt happier.”

STARS specifically has a special place in Mackey’s heart because she knows people affected by violence.

“When I got to (MU) and went to parties, I saw a lot of inappropriate things going on,” Mackey said. “Learning what consent is was a big thing for me, because then I started to see all around me that not a lot of people understood what (consent) means.”

In regards to sexual violence on MU’s campus, Mackey cites the problem as a lack of education on the issue. She also said the Title IX annual report isn’t an accurate reflection because not all people who are sexually assaulted chose to report to Title IX.

For the upcoming year, Mackey is excited for Take Back the Night and looks forward to an additional fundraiser to help the Leadership Through Education and Advocacy for the Deaf with funding.

STARS Treasurer Khaliyah Frazier, a sophomore business marketing major from the suburbs of Chicago, believes the biggest problem on college campuses comes from the simple idea that people don’t really know the definition of sexual assault.

“I think it’s a really big problem everywhere,” Frazier said. “Sadly, it’s a problem that you can’t really avoid, but I think that we can help the problem by bringing awareness(to sexual assault) and teaching students and others about what’s going on.”

Frazier joined as a freshman after attending a few meetings. This summer, she participated in the Summer Welcome health and safety skits through the Wellness Center, which allowed her to learn a lot about sexual violence prevention.

“I realized that I already had a pretty strong connection to it because I have a few survivors in my family,” Frazier said. “This year, I wanted some type of leadership position because it’s really important to me to show that I’m doing things on campus and supporting my family, too, in a different way.”

Frazier expressed her excitement about the different events planned for this year and said she was trying to get more people involved. Last year, STARS only had the Take Back the Night event, but this year, the board members plan to host more events.

Overall, Frazier hopes that she will be able to learn more about relationship and sexual violence prevention through STARS and the RSVP Center.

“My goal this year is to get really involved with RSVP, so I want to become a peer educator and different things like that, and STARS helps me train my mind for like dealing with different situations with RSVP,” Frazier said. “It’s helped me become way more aware, and I’ve learned so much from STARS. It’s helped me connect more with my family members who are survivors too, just because now I understand way more what they are going through mentally and what they went through and how it’s affected them. So it’s just been a really big learning experience for me.”

Like Frazier, sophomore Katie Williams from Rolla knows people who are survivors of relationship and sexual violence.

“I originally got involved with RSVP last year as a student staffer because I saw the Summer Welcome skits as a freshman, and I was just like, ‘Yes, this is something I need to get behind,’” Social media chair Williams said. “I knew a lot of people in high school who faced relationship and sexual violence, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to anymore people.”

The RSVP Center and educator’s class she took last year through the center has had such a major influence on Williams’ life that she recently added women and gender studies to her major in psychology and minor in classics.

“I learned so so much there about just how relationship and sexual violence affect different identities,” she said. “Learning about those identities was mind-blowing because I come from a small town, and I had no idea about all these things, and I wanted to continue that education.”

Through a leadership position, Williams hopes to continue to spread awareness through various events such as Rock Against Rape, a concert to spread awareness for Rape Awareness Month, Vagina Monologues and Take Back The Night.

“Being a part of exec was really important to me,” Williams said. “To have a leadership role and actually see I am making the change on this campus or I’m a part of the change on this campus and leading the way for that.”

As the social media chair, Williams said she looks forward to informing students about upcoming events and opportunities to get involved. She mentioned the correlation between spreading awareness online and the success of planned events. Williams also noted the need to have events like Take Back The Night as a way to inform people and start meaningful conversations.

“I want this issue to be less stigmatized, which comes into people not talking about it enough,” Williams said. “There’s a huge stigma against relationship and sexual violence and survivors. That needs to go away so that we can go at this problem head-on and just stop it.”

Williams said if people break the stigma down and have conversations, they will be more educated about consent and problematic relationships.

STARS meets 5 to 6 p.m. every Thursday in the RSVP Center.

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