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Manipal Runs For Sexual Violence Survivors

Living in Paris, planning to pursue fine arts in the City Of Love, twenty-two-year-old Claire McFarlane had the world at her feet. It was her dream to study in Paris, but that dream and the life it promised shattered on a fateful night in July. On her way back from her job she was brutally beaten and raped and left to die in an alleyway. That night started her on a struggle for justice that lasted sixteen years. In July of 2015, she finally received due compensation and justice from the French court.

However, throughout her struggle and ordeals, she realized the grave need for awareness against sexual violence and to create a safe space for the victims to share their experiences and be heard without any sort of judgment or scrutiny. She began running alongside beaches as a part of her global outreach project, BRA (Beach Run Awareness) to aide and empower survivors of sexual violence. After travelling across 184 countries and running for over 3000 kilometres, she came to Udupi and ran alongside 70 students and staff from Manipal University in July 2016.

Two years since that day, the students and staff from every college of MAHE came together to run a marathon in support of her cause. Early morning on Sunday, 23rd July, about fifty participants assembled in front of the EDU building to take part in this event. Organized by IIMRC, Footsteps to Inspire was a marathon run to commemorate the movement started by Claire McFarlane.

The participants travelled by bus to Malpe beach in order to run from one end of the beach to another. Despite high tide and monsoons ruining the concept of a ‘beach run’, the participants were in high spirits and were eager to start the run, albeit on a stretch of road. The participants were given an option of either a 5km run or a 16km run. The 16km run signified the number of years that Claire struggled for justice. The strong gusts of winds and the waves crashing right beside them seemed to invigorate them enabling them to push their limits.

“I registered for the 5k run, but somehow ended up completing 10kms, such was the motivation for the cause and the event,” says Aman Dugar, a student from the School Of Information Sciences, Manipal, who participated in his first marathon. With such an emotional cause at heart, the response that the event received through the newcomers was overwhelming. Around 70% of the total participants were newcomers who were attempting a run like this for the first time in their lives. With the youth keen on taking an active part in events like these that promote such vital social causes, one can be optimistic about living in a society that regards victims with empathy and support rather than accusations and scrutiny.