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WAVES wins national Cosmo competition

By Amanda Hancock
On November 12, 2012

A group of Miami University students were featured by Cosmopolitan magazine last week after winning a national contest aimed at fighting sexual violence.

Miami's student organization, Women Against Violence and Sexual Assault (WAVES), won the RAINN Day/Cosmo Multimedia Contest, an event sponsored by Cosmopolitan and the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN.

RAINN Day is an annual campaign to educate and raise awareness for college-aged students, a demographic that remains at the highest risk of sexual violence, according to RAINN's spokesperson, Megan Erhardt.

After the members of Miami's WAVES heard about the contest, they developed their own "RAINN day" in September.

Senior and president of WAVES Robin Lavigna said the win was much needed for the group's morale.

"Sometimes it's a hard topic to talk about and [we] worry that we aren't making a difference," she said.

WAVES' take on the event, the idea of making it "RAINN" at Miami, opened the eyes of many students, said WAVES vice president Kate Van Fossen.

"We've done an outstanding job this semester of getting our name out there, and the feedback and support we have received has been tremendous," Van Fossen said, adding that they've been personally congratulated from administrators such as Dean of Students Susan Mosley-Howard, Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara Jones and university President David Hodge.

Throughout RAINN day, WAVES members stood near the Hub and collected more than 400 signatures from students and teachers on several colorful umbrellas. Members handed out Skittles and Lifesaver packets with facts taped on them, using the tagline "taste the rainbow." There were raindrop-shaped posters hung on nearby trees displaying statistics, like 1 in 6 college-aged women is a victim of rape.

The group then put together a video highlighting RAINN Day activities with comments from WAVES members about what the day means to them.

"RAINN does a great job of giving survivors hope that there are still people who care about you in this world, that people are going to be there to support you," first-year Megan Kincaid said in the video.

WAVES is run by seven female students, according to Lavigna, and each one worked to make RAINN day a success.

Van Fossen agreed.

"We were all ecstatic to find out we had won the competition; I am extremely proud of our small group for coming together with just a week's time to put this event together," Van Fossen said.

The contest was competitive, according to Erhardt. Among the hundreds of colleges participating, there were a variety of submissions including events ranging from flash mobs to roundtables and art projects.

The video WAVES submitted won over the contest sponsors with its creative and attention-grabbing elements Erhardt said.

"Miami did an excellent job using the umbrellas for attention and getting the necessary information out," she said, adding that the video scored well amidst the judging criteria, which was based on the originality and creativity of the entries as well as how the anti-sexual abuse message was communicated.

RAINN looked for dynamic and unique events, however, Erhardt said the most important aspect was a passion for the cause.

For these Miami students, this passion comes from trying to ignite a conversation within the Miami community to change campus culture.

Miami's current culture has come under some fire recently after the controversial posting of a flier titled "Top 10 Ways to Get Away With Rape" in a men's bathroom of McBride Hall this October, which gained national attention.

"It was a good thing for us to try to reverse the effects of the rape culture and put a positive light on Miami," Lavigna said.

She also said winning the contest has motivated WAVES to push further with events on campus and pursue getting their event in the print version of Cosmopolitan. The magazine frequently features stories about sexual violence and rape advocacy groups.

"We just hope that we can promote change little by little," Lavigna said.

WAVES partners with RAINN for several events throughout the year, though this was the group's first RAINN day.

RAINN targets college campuses more than any other age group, according to Erhardt.

"One of the great things about RAINN Day is that events can be tailored to fit different campuses and styles; it can work for any sized group or campus," Erhardt said.

RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. It created and runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline, which can be reached at 1.800.656.HOPE or the website, online.rainn.org.

In addition to promoting RAINN's resources, Lavigna and Van Fossen encourage students to join the WAVES mission.

"We are all very passionate about the work we do and hope that the national attention we have gathered this year will attract other students to want to be part of this cause," Van Fossen said.


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