Voices Against Violence offers graduation cords to honor survivors

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In two weeks, Kaitlyn Murphy will be walking across the stage wearing her cap and gown, white stole and a teal cord — which she said will signify the greatest obstacle she has overcome.

“I’ve gone from a place where I was trying to heal,” said Murphy, a history senior. “The future seemed really dim, but here I am, graduating.”

Voices Against Violence, a student organization focused on interpersonal violence prevention, is sponsoring survivor cords for any graduating student who identifies as a survivor to recognize their perseverance through college despite dealing with the struggles of interpersonal violence. Teal is the color of sexual assault awareness.

“People wear cords for honors programs or if they’ve done honors for their majors,” Murphy said. “It (shows) they’ve gone through an extra thing, an extra obstacle. I think being able to acknowledge that for real life events is very cool.”

Anthropology junior Marina Conner, who identifies as a survivor, initiated the new cords. Conner said the trauma she faced caused her to withdraw from school for a year. But after going through trauma therapy, Conner said she decided to re-enroll and is proud of her decision.

“I just didn’t really think that school was something for me … I lost all my passion and who I was,” Conner said. “A lot of rape survivors drop out or have experienced their grades dropped and they can’t focus … so just being back here was something that I took a lot of pride in.”

Conner said the idea for the cords came in a conversation with her mom about graduation, something she never thought she would be able to do.

“I want something to signify to let everyone know that I went through one of the hardest traumas you can deal with, and I’m still walking across the stage,” Conner said.

Alison Aydin, the VAV co-president, said Conner reached out to VAV about the cords one month ago, and the organization only publicized the cords through their closed social media groups instead of to the whole student body because of the short preparation time.

Aydin said despite the time crunch, she still wanted the organization to offer the cords this semester because she personally knows survivors graduating this year who also deserve recognition. This semester, five students will be wearing the teal cord, which is funded by the VAV student organization’s budget.

“It might have been not as smoothly executed,” said Aydin, a human development and family sciences junior. “But … for the five people who ordered cords, they wouldn’t have been able to if we hadn’t done it. I’m really happy we did.”

Aydin said VAV plans to offer the cords to the whole student body next school year. Aydin said it is important to note the cord is optional, and wearing something publicly is not necessary to show healing.

Murphy said while it is perfectly reasonable for someone to keep their experiences private, she believes speaking out and wearing the cords can empower other survivors.

“The fact that there is community and that it’s not something you have to hide is part of what makes me really open about it,” Murphy said. “So when I heard about the cords I was like … if there’s a way for me to further show solidarity, I’m gonna do it.”