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Students run against sexual assault

Dorothy Sherman crosses the finish line at the Undy 500:  Race Against Sexual Assault  Thursday night.
Meghan Sunners |  Senior Staff Photographer

Dorothy Sherman crosses the finish line at the Undy 500: Race Against Sexual Assault Thursday night. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

Dorothy Sherman crosses the finish line at the Undy 500: Race Against Sexual Assault Thursday night. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

By Emily Brindley / Staff Writer

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Forget the dress and heels.

When Devin Dubos got dressed to go out Thursday night, she went straight for a T-shirt and shorts — then put her bra and panties over top.

Instead of joining her friends at a South Oakland party, she lined up with more than 70 other Pitt students, also wearing their underwear over their clothes to take a stand against sexual assault.

At Pitt’s Student Government Board’s first-ever Undy 500: Race Against Sexual Assault on Sept. 17, students wore underwear over their clothes to bust the stigma that sexual violence is tied to what a person wears. SGB Wellness Committee Chair Jasmine Butler organized the run, which led the group of students down Fifth Avenue and around the Cathedral of Learning.

Dubos, a freshman statistics major, ran in the event not only to raise awareness for sexual assault, but also to support sexual assault victims.

“I think back to the diversity training at the beginning of the year, when they asked who had been a victim of sexual assault,” Dubos said. “There were an alarming number of people who stood up. So I put on my underwear and came out here tonight.”

Before the race, groups of students stood talking in small circles and sometimes breaking into dance as Beyoncé blasted in the background. Though many students wore their underwear over their clothes, SGB didn’t enforce a dress code. One student wore a green sequined dress with bright pink tights. Another stood in a circle, talking while his shorts sat around his ankles. Groups of two and three grinned into their phones for selfies.

At 10:25 p.m., SGB President Nasreen Harun and Butler called the crowd to attention. As Butler described the event to the crowd, cheers went up for the cause of raising sexual assault awareness.

Several campus organizations, including It’s On Us, Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Let’s RAVE and Pittsburgh Action Against Rape attended and supported the Undy 500.

“We wanted to hold an event from the student perspective that gets the word out that sexual assault is never something that someone is ‘asking for,’” Harun said. “And that it’s not something that we tolerate at Pitt.”

In addition to raising general awareness, Harun said the Undy 500 will send the message that anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of sexual assault.

Jason Andrews, a freshman political science major, said this is an important issue for Pitt to address.

“This is a big issue, and coming in as freshmen we heard all of the statistics,” Andrews said. “And they were scary statistics.”

Deirdre O’Rourke, a former Women’s Studies professor at Pitt, said she hopes the Undy 500 will draw attention to the issues of sexual misconduct on campus.

“It seems like the event will get people talking,” O’Rourke said.“Any gender, or even if you don’t identify in that way, [sexual assault] affects everyone,” O’Rourke said. “[It] is not just a women’s problem.”

O’Rourke said some of the most important aspects of campus-wide sexual assault awareness are bystander response and peer education programs, like Pitt’s Let’s RAVE. O’Rourke also said that in order for any of these programs to be effective, the entire campus has to be on board and dedicated to making real changes.

“It has to be widespread commitment,” O’Rourke said. “Everyone at the University of Pittsburgh has to acknowledge that they’re not going to tolerate sexual assault…Everyone has to be an ally.”

Harun said she sees the Undy 500 as a way to bring Pitt together on the issue.

“We hope the Undy 500 allows more students to see that Pitt is not like other universities,” Harun said. “We are addressing these issues head on in order to make sure students know how to be safe, and what to do in the event that sexual misconduct does occur.”

Although this event focuses on awareness more than prevention, O’Rourke said one of the best ways to aid in preventing sexual assault is to increase awareness.

“I hope the more we talk about it, the less instances there are,” O’Rourke said.

Butler agreed and said she hopes that this event has a positive impact on Pitt’s attitude toward sexual assault.

“We don’t tolerate sexual assault at Pitt,” Butler said. “You’re never to blame, even if you’re wearing your underwear.”

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Students run against sexual assault