Many Bloomsburg students will recall reading a horrific text notification received in October of last year: “Bloomsburg University Police today received a Campus Security Authority (CSA) report that on or about Friday, October 19, 2018, in the early morning hours on the upper campus – Montgomery Place Apartments (MPA), a female university student reported being raped by an unknown assailant.”
Students were shaken, feeling completely helpless against another brutal act that was committed in a place where they expected to feel safe. “It was truly triggering,” said Amel Elsheakh, a Bloomsburg University senior. “What was most disturbing was the fact that no changes were made to improve security and prevent it from happening to another individual.”
Elsheakh, originally from Allentown, was also forced to deal with the rape of her best friend last summer. “[We] had gone to a gathering that was filled with friends and family,” Elsheakh said. “It was an environment that never made me think we were in any danger. She was raped while I was less than 15 feet away in the next room.” Elsheakh became all too familiar with the guilt and helplessness attached to dealing with the aftermath of such a violent act.
These events recently inspired Elsheakh to create the Bloomsburg University anti-rape coalition (BARC), a movement which will aim to create a healthy dialogue, increase awareness of sexual assault on campus and even increase safety measures such as improved lighting, increasing shuttle frequency, and the installation of additional call boxes.
“A lot of students are not aware of the extreme deficit in security when comparing upper campus and lower campus.” Elsheakh explained that although the University’s new dormitory has “a plethora of cameras on every floor,” there are parking lots, dining services, sports fields and apartments on upper campus that have little to no camera coverage. “You don’t have to be in a dark alley at night to be vulnerable,” said Elsheakh. “If Bloomsburg can invest money in new buildings and other luxuries, they should be able to distribute the budget to make students feel safer on a part of campus that they promote people to live on and utilize the services.”
BARC will consist of students and faculty working together to benefit current and future students that find themselves in unsafe and uncomfortable situations. Elsheakh believes the importance of the coalition is shedding light on a topic that people, especially students, tend to avoid discussing in spite of its prevalence. “A college campus, it is an unsafe environment at times. If this coalition can protect even one student then I will have done my job,” Elsheakh said.
Among other challenges, Elsheakh has been unable to successfully arrange a meeting with University President Bashar W. Hanna to discuss the goals of BARC. “I am not confident that I will get the support I need from some of the most influential offices and personnel on campus,” Elsheakh said.
In the upcoming months, BARC plans to host a forum in which students, faculty and townspeople can share experiences, ask questions, propose ideas and spread awareness. Elsheakh also hopes to organize a concert with local musicians which would help to raise money for a sexual assault awareness program on campus. She encourages anyone with questions or comments to contact her via Instagram, @bubarcsback.