To commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Students of UMich will post a series of stories about sexual assault on Instagram. The student organization was founded by Information junior Somya Bhagwagar and has almost 4,500 followers on Instagram. The account seeks to “act as a microphone,” allowing students to share their stories without censorship.
Bhagwagar decided to feature stories about sexual assault after a number of people brought up the issue in interviews for her blog.
“Honestly, it wasn’t on purpose,” Bhagwagar said. “I started doing my usual Students of UMich, and it kind of just came out. Surprisingly, I found that a lot of people were starting to talk about it, and I questioned why they were talking about it, and I realized that it was Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And then I reordered the stories for it to be in the same month, but it wasn’t intentional.”
Bhagwagar said she hopes the stories will allow her audience to empathize with the survivors.
“A lot of people don’t understand or don’t care about it because they’ve never been in the shoes of someone who has been assaulted,” Bhagwagar said. “A lot of women have been in that place, but the thing about stories is they’re so unique, but so relatable at the same time. So putting yourself in someone else’s shoes … who has gone through that is a really scary process, and it’s a way for you to feel those struggles that you once thought were unfathomable.”
Bhagwagar’s love for learning about other people’s stories comes from her childhood. She started the Students of UMich account to return to those roots.
“When I was a kid, I always wanted to travel all around the world, and obviously no one has enough money to travel all around the world, so my mom would take me to the farmers market and talk to people,” Bhagwagar said. “Her lesson was that you don’t physically need to be somewhere to travel, you can travel mentally through other people’s stories, so when I came to this University, I was super intimidated by everything and decided to go back to those roots … . I think that with stories, you can commiserate with Syrian refugees or understand #MeToo marchers, or you can participate as a global citizen, even if you’ve never had the opportunity to experience it.”