In this day and age, watching out for our peers—regardless of their background, ethnicity, orientation, or political affiliation—has never been more important. Witnessing something wrong and not taking action is a crime in and of itself.
Fortunately, there are good samaritans in the world who won’t hesitate to protect the people around them. A college student in Philly, for instance, is being honored for her bravery when she stopped a sexual assault after an off-campus party.
20-year-old Adrianna Branin is junior studying political science and religious studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Last fall, Adrianna was leaving an off-campus party in the early morning hours when she saw six men taunting an incapacitated woman who was partially disrobed.
The men were catcalling the woman and photographing her while “one [male] has his hand on her breast,” Adrianna said.
In a blind rage, the 5ft 2in college IUP junior confronted the assaulters, covered the woman, and helped her get home.
“I told them that if they had photos of that girl they needed to delete them … that she was vulnerable, there was no reason to take advantage of someone like that,” Adrianna said. “I was trying to guilt anybody I could find into making sure that these photos were deleted.”
Adrianna reported the incident to IUP’s Title IX coordinator. A university spokeswoman, Michelle Fryling, confirmed Wednesday that the office was notified of the incident, but declined to discuss the case in further detail.
For her heroism, Adrianna received the 2019 Biden Courage Award. The honor was presented to her by former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday evening at The Russian Tea Room in New York.
Hosted by It’s On Us and the Biden Foundation, the prestigious event celebrates students who combat sexual assault. Honorees can be recognized in one of four categories: Policy Change, Greek Student Organizing, Campus Organizing, and Bystander Intervention.
Adrianna was nominated for the award by Susan Graham, the clinical case manager in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s counseling center, who describes her as “a fearless active bystander.”
The student was “honored, starstruck…” by the award.
“I’ve dedicated so much of my life to … keeping my community safe, and to get recognized for that and become any kind of example, I’m in awe every moment,” she said.
A survivor of sexual assault herself, Adrianna has worked tirelessly for three years as a peer educator with IUP’s Haven Project which helps students dealing with sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking.
“Understanding the pain and the trauma and the degradation that happens to your body and your mind when you go through something like that, I’ve gained a lot of agency talking about those issues, learning about them, working to have other people be educated about them,” Adriana said.
Though Adrianna is always willing to step in and help when someone is in need, she hopes one day it will become second nature to everyone.
“Bystanding means the world to me, and I’m happy to be a bystander, I’m happy to go to parties, and go to spaces and help people however I can,” Adrianna said. “But I’m hoping for the day where a harmful or a toxic situation is going on and I turn around to do something and somebody’s already doing it.”