By Jilly McBane and Lauren Rives
On Saturday, October 21st, the second annual Lauren McCluskey Race for Campus Safety took place on the University of Utah campus, marking five years since Lauren McCluskey was murdered by a former dating partner. The 5K race was a collaboration between the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, the U of U Department of Public Safety, and ASUU. During this event, student athletes, members of Greek life, and community members of all ages joined together to honor Lauren and bring awareness to and urgency toward preventing the violence she experienced.
Being there, it was obvious this wasn’t any normal event—it was a race with the purpose of making a real difference. The speeches at the beginning of the race highlighted Lauren’s promise—“I will listen and believe if somebody is threatening you.” This promise is composed of multiple layers: a promise to serve as a safe haven for people who have experienced harm, a promise to change campus cultures, and a promise to end violence for good.
The part of Lauren’s promise about changing campus culture and making it so that violence can no longer exist is central to our work at the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention, which is why we felt it was important to participate in the race. We did so in many different ways. Some of us ran or walked the race, including me (Jilly), and some of us tabled to share information about the center. I (Lauren) helped organize the event as part of my work in the student government, and I wanted to incorporate violence prevention into the race based on what I’ve learned at the center. With some crowdsourcing help from other staff members here at the MCVP, I created around a dozen posters with statistics about dating and relationship violence that were placed around the track. They included information ranging from who causes harm and how they do so to how people can help prevent causing harm. This gave participants the opportunity to learn more about what harm looks like on college campuses, to spark conversations about ending violence, and to encourage participants to take Lauren’s promise.
Overall, the race was a beautiful gathering of people rooted in such a sorrowful reason. With our hearts heavy as we think about Lauren McCluskey—and the many people whose stories of violence don’t get told, whether that be due to a minoritized identity or the fear that they won’t be believed if they do come forward—we remember how sincerely we want to embody her promise. The participation we saw this weekend proved to us how so many community members share this intention. With continuous community involvement in efforts to establish spaces for people to open up about both their experiences being harmed, and the harm they’ve caused, we believe this change is possible. We believe changing campus culture in this way is complicated, messy work, but there’s a part in it for everyone.