Editor’s Note: In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April), we are re-showcasing our former Campus Celebrity, Kenny Muehlenbein, for her outstanding work with victims of sexual assault.
Kendyl ‘Kenny’ Muehlenbein is the kind of person we should all aspire to be. She is a crusader for equality and an activist for survivors of sexual violence. Sexual assault is a pandemic on college campuses around this country. Often victims are too ashamed to come forward, but that is why we have organizations like N.I.T.E. on campus. They don’t only raise awareness for the college collective, they also provide emotional support for those enduring the physical and emotional scars of sexual violence. I had a chance to interview Kenny about her journey here at USF:
HCUSF: So, Kenny, tell me a little about your educational journey, and aspirations for life?
College wasn’t guaranteed for me. I come from a single mother home and I’m a first generation college student. I had to figure out the whole college thing on my own and applied to three different colleges. The first two didn’t offer me enough financial aid to attend. USF was a miracle and is the only reason why I am getting a college degree one year from now. I originally came to USF to study Mass Communications in hopes of producing in the entertainment industry, then I fell in love with Women’s and Gender Studies. I am now pursuing a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies with a Leadership minor in hopes of graduate school for Student Affairs. I eventually want to be working in higher education with student development and leadership.
HCUSF: I know you are very involved in campus life, what organizations do you work with and how did you get involved in them?
I am involved in many ways across campus. I first got involved with the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention as a REAL Trainer (Peer Educator) which I am still doing now. I basically get to teach my peers and other USF affiliates about consent and bystander intervention, along with other really great things. Through working at this office, I stumbled upon the student organization N.I.T.E. and became President of it quickly after. This is a social justice organization that raises awareness for gender-based violence and advocates for campus safety. I have been involved ever since. On top of those things I am also a sister of Chi Omega and work in the Office of Orientation.
HCUSF: For those people on Campus who don’t know, what is N.I.T.E.?
N.I.T.E. is best described as a small group of people doing their part in changing our campus and community to better the world. We are a social justice student organization focusing on contemporary issues, ending gender-based violence, community safety, awareness, and empowerment.
HCUSF: What is the most shocking revelation you’ve had with the organization?
N.I.T.E. has been life changing for me. I came to college as a victim of sexual assault and today I call myself a survivor. Before I found N.I.T.E., I just wanted it to go away and I had no concept of self-care or healing. Through our events and connecting with allies and other survivors, I have really found my voice and I get to heal every single day. I didn’t know that being involved with this organization would give me an outlet to turn one of the most horrible things that happened to me into an opportunity to help others and challenge our campus, community, and the world to each do our part in ending gender-based violence and making this a safer place for all. You never know who is affected by violence, but this work matters and I get to witness that with every single meeting and event we have.
HCUSF: What kind of events do you have?
Take Back the Night: Take Back the Night is a silent march followed by a speak out against sexual violence and candlelight vigil in honor of Sexual Violence Awareness Month. It is my favorite event that we host because it is so empowering to see such courage and perseverance in every single person that chooses to either attend or tell their story. It is a reminder that no one is alone in this and we all are capable of healing. (This April: 4/14/16 at 6:30 pm in MSC Amphitheater)
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: “The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence.” Men, women and everyone else will march together in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Based off the idea that you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, men put on women’s heels and walk the walk to show that we are all doing our part in “putting our foot down” against gender-based violence.
Campus N.I.T.E. Walk: A comprehensive campus safety audit where students, faculty, and other volunteers record safety hazards to be repaired. This data is also used by the university to determine what steps we need to make for the future of campus safety. (This March: 3/7/16 at 7:30 pm in the SVC Breezeway)
The Blue Heart Campaign: The Blue heart Campaign is an awareness event in honor of Human Trafficking Month which is January. However, we hold our week long campaign in February the week of Valentine’s Day to challenge people to think about the horrible industry that takes place across the world and even right here in Tampa. We hand out blue heart hearts across campus all week and ask people to wear them to raise awareness and show solidarity for those affected. Each heart comes with a fact sheet with links to resources and information, as well as a statistic on human trafficking. (THIS FEB.: 2/8/16 – 2/12/16 all across campus)
HCUSF: Why should people want to get involved?
People should want to get involved if they have a passion for standing up for what they believe in and truly want to make a difference on our campus and in our community. Our events matter and together we are raising awareness and giving people an outlet to create positive change. It’s a beautiful thing when people come together with the hopes of changing the world.
If you have been a victim of sexual violence, please call the USF Center for Victim Advocacy’s Victim Help Line at (813) 974-5757.