Leah Thompson – Staff Writer
IGNITE, WAC and SRF joined together from 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Friday, April 29 at the Lund Forum to present their 2nd annual 97% Event. The 97% Event is based on a study done in the UK that revealed 97 percent of women in that region were sexually harassed during their life.
The data for the study was collected in early 2021 and published in March of the same year, further revealing that young women between the ages of 18 and 24 had experienced the highest rate of sexual harassment. However, 70 percent of women, regardless of age, had experienced sexual harassment in public in the UK.
The 97% Event was the final event of a week-long program hosted by the three organizations, which aimed to provide awareness surrounding sexual assault on campus while offering a safe space for survivors.
This year the event had a guest speaker, Sabrina Mercedes, who owns Safe Relations, an organization based in Mankato that teaches wellness, art, and empowerment. Mercedes gave information as someone with an outside perspective who has studied and done the work.
Mercedes gave a presentation about taking care of yourself, setting boundaries and understanding trauma. Afterward, they led a yoga workshop for everyone, regardless of physical abilities. Like most events, there was food from Erberts and Gerberts, cookies and beverages provided along with a t-shirt giveaway.
One of the planners for the week of events was Regina Olono. She is a Senior Political Science major who is the Gustavus IGNITE President and the Student Senate Co-President.
IGNITE is a “movement of young womxn who are ready and eager to become the next generation of political leaders”. The group has also played a major role in influencing and planning the 97% Event both last year and this year.
One of IGNITE’s biggest focuses on campus is to give more political power to women of color, who have been historically underrepresented in both government and politics. With IGNITE National’s help, there have been many opportunities and internships given to students in all chapters across the country, including women at Gustavus.
Olono explained that after the presentation students in attendance were able to ask questions and receive meaningful responses.
She said that there were specific questions surrounding “setting boundaries within the family” and how to “create meaningful and helpful routines for your health”. Mercedes had also placed an emphasis on being able to personalize your own wellness.
“Students typically stop going to events during this time, so the turnout was pretty good. There was about 30 people and it was a really fun time,” Olono said.
Student organizations, including IGNITE and SRF, knew that they wanted to make an event regarding sexual assault for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and that’s how everything started. The event was given its title because of the sheer number of women who experience sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime.
For their first annual event, the two organizations put up cardboard signs with statistics on them about sexual assault. In addition to the signs, many students protested against sexual assault on campus during the days leading up to the first ever 97% Event.
The cardboard signs and protests were only a part of last year’s event. “A talk was given in the Arb by History Professor Misti Harper and over one hundred people showed up to listen,” Olono said.
However, this year Olono detailed that the three student orgs wanted to focus on “shifting gears and providing a safe space for healing and community,” and with the help of Mercedes, this was accomplished.
Another change between the previous year’s event and this one, was that this year’s event was the concluding event of an entire week of programming. Last year the 97% Event was one of the only events for SAAM, but this year the three organizations decided to host a SAAM Week of educational programming for students.
Although Olono is graduating this year, she hopes to see the other student groups become more intersectional in the future. This intersectionality would allow for a better sense of understanding and community amongst womxn on campus; and would allow for larger events if more organizations were able to collaborate with one another.