Office of Health Promotion hosts candlelight vigil as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Activist Mirabelle Jones also gave the keynote speech to 15 people in HBC Gifford Auditorium Monday night.

Syracuse University’s Office of Health Promotion hosted its biggest night of Sexual Assault Awareness Month with a keynote speaker and candlelight vigil, helping end a month’s worth of educational programming.

Some 15 people gathered in the HBC Gifford Auditorium on Monday night to listen to Mirabelle Jones share her story and artwork. The crowd then moved outside for the 5th annual SU Rising Candlelight Vigil.

In addition to addressing larger themes of sexual assault and relationship violence, Jones emphasized how art can be used as a tool for survivor advocacy and trauma therapy.

“I think that it’s important that art has a unique ability to allow people to interact with it how they want. They don’t have to feel hit over the head with it,” Jones said. “They can approach it at [their] own level, wherever they’re at in their healing process.”

Jones is a California-certified sexual assault crisis counselor and founder of Art Against Assault, a grassroots arts organization raising awareness about sexual assault through the production of survivor-led art projects.

Jones told her story through her critically-acclaimed project JARRING III, three artist books that tell the story of 22 sexual assault survivors through a combination of letterpress fine printing, visual art and paper sculpture. Jones has received awards from The Pollination Project and the College Book Arts Association for the collection of survivor narratives, with proceeds from the project and subsequent lectures and talks benefiting rape crisis centers.

The book took three years for Jones to complete and there are only 50 of each, 150 in total, in existence. Syracuse University purchased their own copies of the books, with proceeds going directly to Vera House. According to its website, Vera House is “a comprehensive domestic and sexual violence service agency providing shelter, advocacy, and counseling services for women, children & men, education and prevention programs and community coordination.”

Jones expects proceeds from the project will generate between $40,000 and $50,000 nationwide by the time she has finished. The project’s goals are to share the true narratives of survivors, dispel myths surrounding sexual assault, create resource for survivors and students and generate funds for local and national survivor resources such as resource and crisis centers.

Jones’ talk included an exhibition of the books in front of the room for audience members to view and interact with following the talk. Resources for those dealing with or wishing to report a sexual assault also shared a table with the JARRING III books.

“[ Jones’] ability to make art out of something so serious was really something,” said Evelyn Angamarca, a newspaper and online journalism freshman. “Her compassion for the cause while still paying attention to individual’s stories was moving.”

Immediately following Jones’ keynote speech, at around 8:30, the crowd from Gifford Auditorium moved outside to Hendricks Chapel and began the vigil. Tiffany Brec of Vera House led the group gathered in the warm April air in the vigil, a call to action to end violence against women.

According to Brec, the Rising Candlelight Vigil acts as a call-to-action to end violence not only against women on the SU campus, but across the globe. People spoke and told their stories, but mostly stood silent in solidarity for the cause.

“You do have the power to change things. You have the power to connect with others who have felt similar experiences to you,” Jones said. “How you choose to do that is up to you – there is no wrong way to deal with trauma.”

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