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A week’s worth of events on sexual assault aim to SHAPE campus culture

Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost/vice president for student affairs, at a SHAPE week table with two students.
Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost/vice president for student affairs, at a SHAPE week table with two students.

Seen posters for SHAPE around campus? The Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention & Education Week is taking place this week until Sunday, Feb. 9. 

Launched by sophomores Jake Jeffries and Eden Schumer, both ad-hoc senators on Duke Student Government’s Campus Life Committee, SHAPE Week seeks to spark conversation around Duke’s social culture and sexual assault in the community. The weeklong series of events includes intervention workshops, training, forums, tabling and other activities.

 Zoila Airall, associate vice president for student affairs for campus life, and Mary Pat McMahon. Courtesy of Eden Schumer

According to its website, SHAPE’s goals are to highlight current prevention methods, make campus resources more visible and collaborate with student groups and departments invested in ending sexual violence. The initiative also seeks to educate the Duke community about the prevalence and perpetuation of sexual harassment and assault on campus.

“Eden and I have been using the term ‘spark the conversation’ but we want to keep that fire going because it is a constantly evolving process that cannot stop until everyone feels safe on this campus,” Jeffries wrote in an email. “So we are planning to formalize the SHAPE initiative and get a team to work on it and continue it while we are abroad this upcoming semester and for years to come, and I am excited to see that process take off.”

Schumer wrote that it was important for many different groups to collaborate on the initiative because “at the end of the day, addressing and, ultimately, ending issues of sexual harassment and assault on campus involves everyone—from first-years up to the Duke Administration.”

Courtesy of Eden Schumer

The project was launched due to major concerns about the prevalence of sexual assault at Duke. According to a Feb. 2019 survey, 48% of Duke undergraduate women reported they have been sexually assaulted since enrolling. Additionally, 13.5% of male undergraduates have reported being sexually assaulted, an increase from 10% in previous years.

Schumer and Jeffries have been working on the initiative since May 2019.

“I hope it makes people feel seen and provides opportunities, resources, and outlets for them to feel heard as well,” Schumer wrote in an email. “Most of these events and tabling activities root down to empathy and communication. Those are two practices I believe in very deeply: they unite, humanize, validate and mobilize.”

Events on the schedule include conversations on healthy relationships and communication, TEDxDuke and Me Too Monologues performances. The week builds up to its final, capstone event, “Nadia’s Initiative: Truth to Power,” which will take place Sunday, Feb. 9 in Page Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. In addition to a keynote speech by Nadia Murad—a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who spoke at Duke in 2018—the event will highlight achievements of Murad’s global nonprofit, Nadia’s Initiative.


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