Three FIU Students Put Queer Sexual Assault in the Spotlight Through Benefit Concert

Madison McNally, Jocelyn Briones, and Amelia Leon
Madison McNally, Jocelyn Briones, and Amelia Leon Photo by Brenda Lopez
When Amelia Leon, a student at Florida International University, learned about an on-campus group called Queering Sexual Assault Prevention (QSAP), she knew she wanted to support its work. “Unfortunately, queer sexual assault is often not discussed, especially when talking about sexual assault on college campuses,” Leon says. Hoping to raise funds and awareness for QSAP, which holds workshops on sexual assault prevention and provides resources to survivors, she decided to create a fun event. “I wanted to make it a celebration of queerness, of differences, of minorities and underrepresented groups, to come and feel empowered,” she says, “and also to benefit something that I think is going to impact a lot of future generations at FIU and possibly in the Miami general area as well.”

Leon joined forces with Madison McNally, who hosted a successful music event on campus last year, and they decided to stage a benefit concert for QSAP. They also teamed up with Jocelyn Briones, president of the student-run group Sexual Health Alliance Revolutionizing Positivity (SHARP). Leon serves as head organizer, with Briones as outreach coordinator and McNally handling entertainment booking and social media.

The concert, called Reflect, is set to take place at Space Mountain Miami this Friday. It will be MC’ed by Robert Lee, founder of the open-mike night Speakfridays, and offer visual art and performances by local artists. Performers include comedian Shana Manuel, erotic performance artist ViKerrious, spoken-word artists Sab Soriano and Oliver Brantome, and South Florida bands such as Palomino Blond, Boston Marriage, and Birthday Wish. Leon will also perform with her band, GrayWise.

The Reflect team wanted the event to stretch beyond FIU’s borders and into the larger Miami community, and several outside organizations were eager to participate. The Miami-based clothing store Outplay, which specializes in gender-nonconforming swimsuits and sportswear, is the concert’s main sponsor; NYX Professional Makeup and the food truck Monkeilicious, which will donate a percentage of the night’s food sales to QSAP, are also sponsors. Other groups that will have tables at the event include student organizations from FIU and University of Miami, as well as the Florida Health Department’s “Getting to Zero” initiative, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
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Jose Maldonado and Amelia Leon of the band GrayWise.
Photo by Roseus Garcia
Leon, who also heads Simple Pleasures, a queer sexual education club at FIU, identifies as a bisexual polyamorous woman and is herself a survivor of sexual assault. “I can tell you that the conversation on queer sexual assault is just not being had at all,” she says. “A lot of the talk surrounding sexual assault is really heterocentric and penis-centric. Rape is also very gendered.” As examples, she points to the myth that men can't be raped because they’re considered “inherently sexual” and always want sex, or the idea that only penetration counts as “real” assault. The lack of a support system for queer students and the stigma many of them already face add further layers of complication and make it more difficult to come forward. “It’s already stigmatized for me to be having sex with a woman,” Leon says. “It’s even worse for me to come out about what happened to me and even get that validation that it was sexual assault.” Part of QSAP’s mission is to communicate with other organizations and faculty on campus, such as FIU’s therapy program, to help ensure that LGBTQA students get the services and support they need.

In the era of #MeToo, sexual assault is discussed more now than ever, and particularly on college campuses. But many voices are still left unheard. “A lot of what I saw in the past, the attention was geared towards spotlighting the fraternity system,” says McNally, who was the Title IX student representative for Florida Gulf Coast University’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance. She felt encouraged to see students fueling a sexual assault awareness movement, but found the overall conversation heteronormative and not as inclusive as it could be.

“I like to see women from different backgrounds coming together and really creating something special for the community,” says Luna, a rapper and FIU student who will perform at Reflect. Regarding the three organizers, she adds, “I’m happy to see them persevere and make it happen, especially in an age where a lot of people are being activists but maybe not necessarily doing something about what they want to see.”

For Leon, events such as Reflect also provide a shared sense of healing. “I feel like there’s power in stories and in relating to other people what happened to you,” she says. “Before, I always kept it to myself and felt shame for it, like a lot of sexual assault survivors, but after processing it and realizing that I am better than what happened to me, I want to relay that information to other people to make them feel like they’re not alone. We’re going to get through this together.”

Reflect. 7 p.m. Friday, April 12, at Space Mountain Miami, 738 NW 62nd St., Miami. Tickets cost $10 via
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Suzannah Friscia is a freelance arts and culture journalist based in Miami. She has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, Dance Magazine, Pointe, and other publications and earned a master's degree from the Columbia School of Journalism.
Contact: Suzannah Friscia