Every Voice Coalition Amplifies Student Survivor Experiences

The student-run Every Voices Coalition trailblazes in the realm of youth advocacy, implementing preventative and legislative methods to end on-campus sexual violence.

(Wolfram Burner / Flickr)

During their college years, Lily James, Nora Gallo and Bella Fong found themselves restless on their respective campuses, eager to enact tangible progressive change—but without access to the necessary resources to start.

“It felt like a lot of the options available for me and other students were based around sitting around and talking about issues and wanting to make change … but not really having the tools and not really having the open door to do so,” said James.

Serendipitously, the newfound Every Voice Coalition fell into their laps as the organization was getting the ball rolling, refiling their first student-written piece of legislation surrounding policy reform concerning sexual violence support, specifically for college students in Massachusetts.

Every Voice Coalition, founded in December 2016, is a college student-run organization with goals to implement preventative and legislative measures to eliminate sexual violence on college campuses. In order to empower students to tackle policy-related issues, they stress that the legislation is student-written to center the needs of those most directly affected. 

The organization has five primary policies that they hope to implement in each state:

  • free medical and legal support;
  • amnesty for students reporting sexual violence;
  • confidential advising to clarify options;
  • accurate and transparent data about sexual violence; and
  • prevention and response training. 

“What we’re really focused on is an approach to ending campus sexual violence through really addressing systemic issues that students on campus are facing day-to-day,” said co-executive director James. “The current systems in place are only accounting for those who end up reporting and then we also know that some 90-95 percent of survivors of campus sexual violence are not reporting.”

A sign from the Slutwalk in Berlin in 2011. (Álvaro Villalba)

The organization takes a “non-carceral approach,” focusing on systemic issues and the survivor’s needs rather than immediately going to traditional justice systems. “There’s a lot within a college culture and environment where survivors oftentimes face roadblocks to coming forward to report… fearing victim-blame, retaliation, simply being not believed and not receiving the support that they do need,” said co-executive director Gallo. “And so what we want to do is really be able to provide [support] regardless of whether or not that student wants to go through a process of reporting formally.”

“Especially in my community… sexual violence is not something that you talk about,” said Fong, communications director for Every Voice Coalition. “So being in this space and having such a supportive environment… I think has been a really transformative experience.”

On the subject of youth advocacy, Gallo acknowledges the roadblocks that come with being a young person working towards change.

“There are a lot of barriers that we face when it comes to creating tangible change. We are not taught nor empowered to be in the spaces where change is happening,” Gallo told Ms. ”Not only are we not taught nor empowered, but there are often times where we simply are not being invited into the rooms where change is being made, where policy is being written, where laws are being passed around issues that will directly impact us.”

Every Voice Coalition is present in 10 states and currently has six active bills—and they hope to continue to expand.

“We’re growing quickly and expanding across the country, and there’s always opportunities to get involved,” James told Ms. “We need everybody in this fight.”

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About and

Khira Hickbottom is an editorial fellow with Ms. magazine and a rising junior student at Tulane University studying English and Africana Studies. Additionally, she is also presently interning at Birthmark Doula Collective doing research surrounding emergency preparedness for infant feeding. Khira loves roller skating, dill pickle chips, and bad reality television.
Meredith Abdelnour is an editorial fellow for Ms. magazine. She studies English and Environmental Studies at Tulane University and enjoys crossword puzzles.