George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason Nation invited to take action to support sex assault victims at second annual Fear 2 Freedom event

September 15, 2015

By Michele McDonald

The Mason community joins Fairfax Inova Hospital through Fear 2 Freedom to assemble after-care “Fear 2 Freedom Kits” for those affected by rape, child abuse, domestic violence, and sex-trafficking. File photo by Evan Cantwell

The Mason community joins Fairfax Inova Hospital through Fear 2 Freedom to assemble after-care “Fear 2 Freedom Kits” for those affected by rape, child abuse, domestic violence, and sex-trafficking. File photo by Evan Cantwell

The George Mason University community will come together on Tuesday, Sept. 22, for the second consecutive year to raise awareness for sexual assault prevention.

The university is working with the nonprofit Fear 2 Freedom for the event from 4-6:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at Dewberry Hall in the Johnson Center on the Fairfax Campus.

Thomas Mann, a juvenile and domestic relations judge for Fairfax County who has advocated for victim support, will speak, as will Rosemary Trible, founder of Fear 2 Freedom.

Students, faculty and staff will assemble Fear 2 Freedom boxes, which are filled with toiletries, clothing, a teddy bear and a note, handwritten by volunteers with a special message for victims of rape and domestic violence.

The kits go to Inova Health Systems and local hospitals. Volunteers will assemble 350 after-care kits, 100 of which will be designated for children.

Last year, the university bought 15 bears. This  year George Mason will be the first university to keep 50 of the bears along with some boxes because they are such an effective tool for victims. Mason community members can create their own “toolkits of survival.”

“I cannot tell you how popular these bears are with assault victims,” said Mary Ann Sprouse, director of Mason’s Wellness, Alcohol, and Violence Education and Services. “These survivors are struggling. They keep the bear at night, and it helps with nightmares. Some students keep the bear in their backpacks when they walk across campus.”

While more survivors of assault are reporting, not everyone does.

“We’re just at the beginning stages of creating awareness,” Sprouse said. “As survivors feel safe, that they’ll be believed, they’re more likely to come forward.”

Many assault survivors drop out of school, Sprouse said.

“Mason’s services and support are here to help students reach their educational goals,” Sprouse said. “We don’t want you to suffer in silence and be prevented from achieving what you came here to do.”

While the subject matter is heavy, there was a distinct lightness to the event last year as hundreds of students worked together, said MaryAnn Vega, a graduate student in women and gender studies.

“It’s a good place to find that you do have a community at Mason,” said Vega, who commutes to campus. “It was exciting and warming to see people get excited about writing the notes for the kits. And to see all the athletes last year taking pledges to stop violence shows how seriously Mason takes this.”

Last year graduate student Emily Harvey participated as a student and was assigned to assemble a box for an 8-year-old boy. This year the former Mason soccer player is helping to organize the event.

“There’s still a stigma about reporting assault, and events like this help get the conversation going,” Harvey said. “Let members of the Mason Nation have a hand in the healing process.”