Gail Abarbanel, founder + director of the Rape Treatment Center, asks students to make a difference

On the morning of her honorary degree ceremony at Loyola Marymount University, Gail Abarbanel took time to engage with, inspire and challenge LMU’s student leaders.

In April, Abarbanel, founder and director of the Rape Treatment Center and Stuart House at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from LMU. While on the bluff, she spent breakfast with students and posed a thought-provoking question to the group: “What do you think you can do to make a difference?”

Responses varied anywhere from teaching young boys about consent to correcting everyday instances of rape culture. The students said they agree that the key to making a difference when it comes to sexual assault in society is educating others in healthy and respectful ways.

“I think the best thing we can do is really educating but also changing our daily language,” said Georgia Buxton ’18. “When someone makes a comment like, ‘That test raped me,’ that’s not okay. [It’s important to] correct people when they use that terminology, [but to be] kind in correcting people.”

This commitment to respect is what Abarbanel said she admires about the LMU community.

“Whenever I come to this campus, I always feel such a culture of respect,” said Abarbanel, who was honored by LMU for her ground-breaking work in revolutionizing the way society sees sexual assault. “It’s just a different feeling. The students are just exceptional, so I’m very glad to be here.”

A hospital-based treatment program, the Rape Treatment Center (RTC) ensures free comprehensive support services for survivors of sexual assault – 24-hour emergency medical care, exams, counseling services and more. In a society in which victim-blaming language is pervasive and the media attempts to invalidate victims’ late reports, Abarbanel said she is grateful for the hard work of her RTC staff, the #MeToo movement and student activists.

“Student activists are the best hope this country has,” Abarbanel added.

Written for LMU EXP, Loyola Marymount University’s student experience blog

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