After an abuse allegation emerged at Marist College that has rocked campus by storm, the college’s sexual violence prevention club president has weighed in.
A Change.org petition was established last week after allegations of abuse against a student named Amy Rendon emerged. The petition seeks to remove a male student from campus who was accused of abusing her.
Rendon was said to have been in a romantic relationship with a student athlete named Bryan Vargas which was allegedly physically, verbally and mentally abusive. Vargas was reported to have sent sexually violent messages to Rendon during their courtship, which then led to a temporary restraining order.
The petition has gained traction, with over 20,000 signatures thus far. Female students have posted comments about similar abuse experienced by the same student. Marist announced via a campus-wide email and statement on Instagram last week that Vargas was removed from the team and was no longer a student at the college.
These allegations are the kind that Marist’s Its on Us club has sought to raise awareness of since its inception in 2019. The club was modeled after an initiative that started under the Obama administration, which encouraged college campuses to get involved in speaking out about sexual assault on college grounds. President Biden spearheaded the initiative as Vice President.
It’s On Us President Grace Leavitt, a junior majoring in criminal justice and psychology, expressed deep disappointment in how these allegations were handled overall by the college during an email interview.
“This just goes to show that Marist does not take these kinds of allegations seriously enough which gives students the impression that Marist does not care,” she said. “Marist should be a safe and welcoming space for women and their lack of action in domestic violence cases has definitely proven otherwise.”
Leavitt read the comments from other female students in the Change.org petition concerning the removal of the former student-athlete. She said that she is disheartened by how it took for a Change.org petition for Marist to take any action when other students had been victimized by the same student.
Marist is still on pause from in-person classes and is set to resume on April 12 after shutting down in March due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
It is during these uncertain times that Leavitt and It’s On Us have worked to spread their message of encouraging victims of sexual violence to speak out.
“Because of COVID-19, our chapter of It’s On Us has had to adapt but our message is still the same: We believe you, we hear you, and we will fight to make Marist a safe place for everyone,” she said. “We hope to educate students and faculty about the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses and work to put a stop to it.”
She hopes that Marist can eventually provide an inclusive environment for victims looking to report sexual misconduct and violence.
“We do foresee a campus climate where students can feel safer and more comfortable going to Title IX or security, but it is going to take a lot on Marist’s administration part to make that change happen,” she said.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you or anyone you know has been sexually violated, please call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673)