Written by Abigail Cooper and Sarah Dixon
HU Brave is a social media movement on Facebook and Instagram which serves as an avenue to raise awareness about sexual assault in the Harding community. Senior Caitlyn Denison was the catalyst behind starting the site with the support of Director of Academic Resources Stephanie O’Brien.
“This is something that will not only help me but will also help other people so I just took the plunge,” Denison said. “It’s awkward at first to put something so personal about you out there, but it’s also very freeing and empowering at the same time.”
HU Brave was started this April to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness month and the university’s efforts to partake in it.
“We want people to see that it happens to us – not in an effort to scare them, but to let survivors know they are not alone,” O’Brien said. “Something that I think has plagued society, and Christian communities especially, is the isolation and shame associated with sexual assault. We desperately want people to know that not only are they not alone, but that there is hope.”
They want people to realize rape and sexual assault are far more common than anyone wants to admit. O’Brien said the statistics are “repulsive and truly petrifying.”
“I choose to be public with my story because it is beyond empowering for me to do so,” said O’Brien. “I want people to look at me and the joy I possess and know that I endured a violent rape. I pray it gives people hope. I pray it communicates to other survivors that they can still love the Lord and be successful and have a beautiful life. It took me years of being quiet to realize that the only way I could overcome was to share it. So for the past six -seven years, I have been very vocal about my story. I want the Lord to be able to use it and redeem it as much as humanly possible. When I got to share it during chapel last October, it was one of the most awe-inspiring moments in my life because I knew God was taking what Satan intended for evil and using it for the glory of His kingdom and I was truly delighted to be a vessel for that. And I still am.”
Denison said she has received positive feedback from alumni and faculty wishing they had this when they were a student. HU Brave features testimonies from students, faculty, staff and alumni who have been raped and/or sexually assaulted. Those sharing their stories choose whether or not they do so anonymously.
“That alone lets me know that coming forward was right, because we are calling out the problems,” Denison said. “You just can’t keep silent. Silence is violent sometimes.”
Denison is working with the deans to create a campus wide network of advocates for safety and awareness. She hopes to create a support organization by next semester.