SWEAR assembly unites students against sexual violence


Max Potter

Guest speaker Jacqueline Reilly tells her personal story to the junior and senior classes in the auditorium, informing students about sexual assault and violence.

Kenny Hatt and Spencer Pogue

The Stand With Everyone Against Rape (SWEAR) program welcomed sexual assault survivor and public speaker, Jacqueline Reilly to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) on November 5th. The annual assembly educated students on the preventative measures against rape and sexual assault and taught students how to be active bystanders.

At the school assembly, senior SWEAR members presented national statistics on rape and sexual assault victims to emphasize the issue’s importance. The presentation allowed other high school students in the junior and senior grades to understand the significance of SWEAR and the importance of being an active bystander and taking a stand. The microphone was then handed off to Jacqueline Reilly, inviting her to tell her story.

By sharing her personal experience, Jacqueline opened the eyes of her audience members to the severity of sexual violence. She hopes that her words empower students to create a change and become a better generation that can prevent what happened to her and countless other people. When asked why she feels inspired to discuss her experience publicly, Jacqueline said, “I feel it is my calling and my responsibility to use my gift of communication to talk about the things that are hard; because when I do, that radical act gives people permission to do the same. And, that permission is what continues to give me joy and inspiration.”

SWEAR first came to MVRHS four years ago to spread knowledge and awareness regarding sexual assault and rape to high schoolers. The program was introduced by MVRHS alumna, Kaela Vecchia-Zeitz as a part of her senior project. Kaela worked with CONNECT to End Violence, an island organization that provides crisis intervention services and community-wide education about sexual assault and rape. 

By watching educational videos on how to be an active bystander, and engaging in group discussions on toxic masculinity, students learned about the social practices that perpetuate rape culture. Later they learned about the “Three D’s” that an active bystander can use to prevent sexual assault: direct, delegate, and distract. Students left the retreat enlightened and prepared to share their new knowledge.

Senior Bella Giordano, a group leader and SWEAR member, explains the benefits of the SWEAR assembly in the MVRHS community.

“I feel empowered knowing that my peers and myself are being educated on such an important topic that affects everybody whether you be a survivor or an ally or whatever it may be because I know we are learning impactful topics that make me feel safe.”

Jacqueline later stayed at the school for questions and was open to talk to any student about what she has learned from her experience. After finishing her presentation, she hoped that students had this takeaway: 

“It is my hope that students walk away from our time together with a little more understanding of how common and how serious the topic of sexual violence is and why it’s been perpetuated to occur. It is my greatest hope that they walk away feeling empowered that they can do something about it.”