Photo Credit: Student Spotlight Em Paquette
November 2, 2022

Major: Women's and Gender Studies
Year: Senior

Hometown: Minnetonka, MN

Em Paquette knows a thing or two about resilience. A women’s and gender studies major, Em is turning her story and experiences as a sexual assault survivor in high school into advocacy for bystander intervention programs in schools.

“It consumed my entire high school experience — I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue at that school,” says Em. “Instead, I chose to push back as hard as I could by creating this intervention program.”

Em saw a gap in awareness among her peers as an opportunity to educate and prevent sexual violence among teenagers. She developed a Bystander Intervention Program (“BIE, as in ‘bye!’” Em says with a smile) for an activism-focused class at her school and lobbied her administrators to implement the program.

“When I told people in high school what happened to me, they were like, ‘How did we not realize that was happening? What were the warning signs?’ I didn’t even know the warning signs myself.”

Now, Em is reviving her program through a UNL Business Communication course where students are tasked with creating a topical campaign. Em hopes to eventually present her program to high schools around Lincoln, where she’s confident that educating younger teens will lead to better outcomes.

"You’re taught intervention strategies at orientation when you come to big universities like UNL, but I think if you’re teaching freshmen in their first week of college it’s already too late.”

She credits her time volunteering in the UNL Women’s Center and presenting at their Gender Equity Conference her freshman year for helping her come into her own as an advocate, a confidence she hopes to pass along to high schoolers through her program.

“A lot of high school students right now want to talk about things that are important to them. By the time students come to college they might encounter a situation that’s unsafe, and hopefully that’s where the education they would receive from this program would become important.”

Visit CARE at UNL for support & resources for those affected by sexual violence, relationship abuse, stalking & sexual harassment.