April is sexual assault awareness month in the United States, and senior Emily Lake doesn't miss an opportunity to raise awareness. Lake, one of Connecticut College's three Think S.A.F.E. (Think Sexual Assault-Free Environment) Project interns, works closely with Darcie Folsom, the College's coordinator for sexual violence education and advocacy, to raise awareness about sexual assault, rape and gender-based violence through communication campaigns and events. "It is so important to create a caring community that is invested in the healing process for survivors and committed to prevention work," Lake said.
The goal of the Think S.A.F.E. Project, for which the Connecticut College was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, is a safe campus climate that is free of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. Through partnerships with campus members and community agencies, Think S.A.F.E. fosters individual and collective action to end sexual and relationship violence. "The result is a community of care, where students feel comfortable talking about these issues," Folsom said. Earlier this month, more than 65 people attended the College's annual "Take Back The Night" event. Lake was in charge of organizing this year's event, which included a rally and "speak out," where members of the campus community were invited to speak publicly about the impact of sexual assault and domestic violence.
"'Take Back The Night' had a very empowering feel," Folsom said. "Emily prides herself on being an activist and she wanted everyone to walk away with the feeling that there is more we can do." Lake's passion for prevention began during her freshmen year when she was part of the College's production of Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues." Each year, students produce, direct and perform the popular show and donate the proceeds from the show to local and international charities dedicated to improving the lives of women. "We formed a safe space and it felt like an important community that I needed to continue to support and be a part of," Lake said of the Monologues student production crew. This year, Lake served as the co-producer, and she directed the production during her sophomore and junior years.
Lake has also found other ways to get involved. She is a member of SafetyNet, a group of peer educators that work with the College's Office of Sexual Violence Education and Advocacy, and serves as a member of the Coordinated Community Response Team, which works to improve access to victim services and increase the likelihood of crime reporting. "Emily is incredibly passionate about the cause, and she isn't afraid to stand up for her beliefs," Folsom said. "It takes a lot of courage to stand up to your peers, and Emily has that courage." After she graduates in May, Lake, a double major in religious studies and English, plans to continue her important prevention work.
"Sexual assault, dating violence and stalking prevention is part of who I am and I know that it will continue to play a huge role in how I see the world long after graduation," Lake said. -By Amy Falk '11