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Students praying for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ during an alternative chapel (photo courtesy of Sarah Bengtson).

Knuha resident director Sarah Rima helped bring this even to campus by introducing the event to her resident assistant staff as a possible event idea. Rima participated in Stand Up for Your Sister when she was a senior in her undergrad at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. In response to her first experience, Rima helped add the men’s event when she was at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. When asked how she was effected by the event as a student, she shares about the joy and freedom she experienced and how glad she was that “there’s finally people talking about it.” As a resident director, she says, “I am encouraged when students start speaking about it and address pain instead of leaving matters under the rug.” To Rima, Stand Up for Your Sister means embodiment. An event such as this “humanizes the numbers—what we call issues. We get to see the person rather than the problem” she says.

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Following the initial Stand Up For Your Sister event, students gathered for additional meetings

The student representative on the Stand Up for Your Sister committee is Diane Hawkinson, a senior psychology major and assistant resident director of Knuha. She shared about her experience participating in the event: “It was difficult. I realized how many things I’ve gone through and that has shaped who I am. You aren’t always allowed to think about those things and ponder about the experiences that have happened at a young age. For the standing portion, I was crying. To see how many women had been impacted based on a specific question. It was heart breaking but also encouraging because of how many women were not alone.”

In total, 132 women and 35 men attended the event. According to the results, the top five questions that were answered “yes” are:

• Have you ever compared yourself to

another woman? 100%

• Have you ever experienced insecurity after

comparing yourself to others? 100%

• Have you ever experienced jealousy over

another’s relationship? 96%

• Have you ever felt alone in these issues? 91%

• Have you ever turned to food for comfort? 87%

“What stood out to me was that we had 100% of woman answer yes for some questions. Also, knowing the results, those were only out of 132 women” said Hawkinson.

John Hyttsten, Akenson resident director and also on the committee, shared his response to the results: “I had some understanding of how real these issues are in our culture, but there was something very sobering about seeing how real things are with the women that are here on campus. I am moved to want to check my own actions and words as I interact with both men and women around me. I am moved to consider how I speak up when needed and play a role in breaking down the silence of these issues.” It is commonly mistaken to say that Christian campuses do not struggle with issues of self-image, self-harm, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, pornography, premarital sex and more. “The reality is that these things have been here for a long time and fear of stigma, judgment and shame [among others] has suppressed our conversation around these very real challenges and hurts. I think this program is important because we need to raise awareness that we live in a broken world with pain, hurt and challenges. We are called to support one another in Christ, and we can’t do that very effectively if these topics are shrouded in silence,” says Hyttsten.

Students sharing their voices (photo courtesy of Sarah Bengtson).

Students sharing their voices (photo courtesy of Sarah Bengtson).

Although the men’s event only had thirty-five male attendees, they had fruitful discussion on ways they can support their sisters. “We were challenged to contemplate how we can stand up WITH our sister, and live life alongside of them. We want to be aware of challenges that our sisters face, and able to support without projecting our own assumptions of their experience on them” shared Hyttsten.

Following this event, there have been two alternative chapels that reviewed the results and allowed space for further discussion. Rima believes that open conversations should continue to equip student leaders to have hard questions asked. For some individuals, it may have been the first time they expressed their experiences in their survey and it encourages them to find the right people to confide in. In the women’s event, they discussed how to find safe people to share their experiences with and also to be that safe friend for someone else. Although the event was about a month back, the alternative chapels are geared to continue the conversation of the variety of topics in the survey. The committee is open to new ideas regarding how to approach these topics in a safe environment. Rima emphasizes that this event was not to glorify pain but to really know and grasp the conversations that could take place. She says, “It is never too late to share or seek support … it never stops mattering.”
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