Image courtesy of: CNN

By Silvia Marin

Mount Saint Mary College has received a $300,000 grant from the Department of Justice Office of Women Against Violence that will be used in partnership with Safe Homes of Orange County and the Orange County Rape Crisis.

With hashtags like #MeToo, men and women around the world are speaking up through their stories and those of people they know, in order to raise awareness and show other victims that they are not alone. According to CNN, more than 1.7 million people around the world have used the hashtag and one in six people know at least one person who has used the hashtag.

The increasing number of claims in the media raise questions about safety, including on school campuses, however legislators and school staff are working on ensuring that all people are protected and safe. In New York State the legislation NYS 129 B, also known as “Enough is Enough,” was signed by Governor Cuomo in 2015. This law requires that all colleges and universities in the state have comprehensive procedures and guidelines for sexual misconduct, faculty and student training and an amnesty policy to ensure that students report any sort of abuse.

“This was not difficult to implement on campus,” stated Jessica Mushel, athletic director at Mount Saint Mary College. “[At the Mount] We had already started programs with the athletes to raise awareness and the programs have just continued to grow.”

Lacrosse Coach Eric Seideman was one of the first campus faculty members who started taking initiative with his team. In 2015, the team joined the One Love Foundation and participated in their elevation training. They have continued to contribute to the foundation by participating in “Yards for Yeardley,” where lacrosse teams dedicate time to running to raise awareness. Along with the runs, the team also holds annual benefit games.

The One Love Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness to relationship violence, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse. The foundation was started in memory of Yeardley Love who was killed by her boyfriend.

“Athletes can be influential males on campuses that can make a difference,” says Seideman. “This is empowering them to say something and encouraging bystander intervention.”

The training on campus has proven to be effective for both athletes and staff.

“The training was incredibly powerful but I wasn’t sure how practical it would be… but last year one of my students came to me” says Seideman. “He had witnessed a friend of his being a victim of relationship violence and he had the skills to step in and intervene….and make sure she was safe.”

Other initiatives and programs have been created around campus to contribute to the campaigns against sexual harassment. The $300,000 granted by the Department of Justice will go to creating programs with Safe Homes of Orange County and Orange County Rape Crisis to have proper resources.

“The college takes this initiative very seriously and encourages the campus community to have dialogue surrounding issues of sexual misconduct,” says Kelly Yough, dean of students.

Take Back the Night was held at the end of September with guest, Brenda Tracy, a rape victim, who shared her story. She’s worked with the NCAA to have proper training for athletes and staff to be able to handle these cases and offer the proper support for victims, as well as pledge to help end the abuse. The #ItsOnUs campaign, initiated by Barack Obama, calls for people to pledge that they will not just be bystanders but will take initiative to say something. The school has been a part of the campaign for the past two years, when Orange County was the first county in the U.S. to join.

“We also want to create an environment where all members of our campus community are comfortable with reporting,” says Yough.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual or any form of abuse, contact the counseling services or visit for more information.