Hundreds of community members show support in SHARPP-hosted anti-violence walk and rally
Approximately 600 university community members participated in a campus-wide march against violence on Thursday afternoon as part of the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program's third annual anti-violence walk and rally to celebrate Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
"We at the University of New Hampshire will not stand for violence in our community," said Maggie Wells, SHARPP's outreach coordinator, to the group gathered in the Strafford Room of the MUB.
Wells has been at UNH for five years and has been a part of the walk since its inception.
"We host (the walk) on the second Thursday of April, rain or shine, every year," Wells said. "I think that it is not too much to ask that for an hour and twenty minutes we gather as a community to have our collective voices be heard and that we send the message that UNH is a community that steps out to speak out against violence."
Last year, according to Wells, about 300 students and faculty took part in the walk, tripling from three years ago.
This year, it doubled to 600 walkers, including SHARPP advocates, faculty and staff, students, fraternities and sororities among other clubs and organizations on campus.
SHARPP advocates Zachary Ahmad and Kenna Smith agreed that sexual violence needs to be talked about in a college community.
"It's time to stop being silent about these issues," Ahmad said.
"Especially on a college campus," Smith agreed. "It's just good to see (the march) grow... It's really cool seeing people you know coming to support what you do."
Men's soccer team member Robert Palumbo marched with his teammates to support the cause.
"It's a respect issue," Palumbo said. "I don't think any gender is more important."
Originally, the walk was to meet outside and start from there; however, light showers brought the group inside the MUB to gather and prepare to walk.
"We kind of joke every year that it's going to rain," SHARPP advocate Allie Pendergast said.
Inside the Strafford Room, campus services and groups such as the counseling center, SHARPP and the women's studies program set up tables where marchers could get information.
"There's always a call for needing more awareness," said Faina Bukher, assistant director of the women's studies program at UNH. "I wish we didn't have to, I wish it was obvious."
The walk took off from the MUB around 1:15 p.m. and circled campus, travelling down Main Street, College Road, Academic Way, and Quad Way, and back into the MUB.
Signs along the walk gave passersby information about SHARPP and sexual violence.
One such fact was that last year, SHARPP served 118 students on campus.
Some in the march chanted such phrases as "consent is hot, assault is not" and "put the yes back in sex."
Wells was proud of all of the work SHARPP staff and students put into planning the walk as well as reaching more people to take part.
"It is our hope that this Anti-Violence Walk and Rally will become a staple event here at the University of New Hampshire," Wells said. "Maybe next year we'll have 1200 (marchers)... It goes to show we have a community that cares about ending violence."
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