November 2011

In Wake of Tragedy, Penn Staters Unite to Help Victims

Proud to be  Penn Stater Logo

In the wake of tragedy, #ProudPSUforRAINN began as the desire of a small group of Penn State alumni to show the world what their alma mater is really all about. It quickly exploded into a national outpouring of support, as thousands of people across the country joined together to help victims of sexual violence. The Twitter campaign turned national news story has raised $490,000, and will soon reach its goal of raising one dollar for each of Penn State's 557,000 alumni. The funds will be used to help victims through the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline and to operate RAINN's programs to prevent sexual assault.

Thanks to the Penn State campaign, RAINN was able to increase staffing for the Online Hotline, which has seen a 54% surge in usage since the news from State College broke. "We're seeing an outpouring of people reaching out for help — women and men, boys and girls — many of whom have been encouraged to get help for the first time as a result of this tragedy," said RAINN's hotline director, Jennifer Marsh. "Many have told us that hearing about the tragedy at Penn State directly led them to reach out for help for the first time."

The Proud PSU campaign started with a call from Jerry Needel, PSU '98, who said that he and a small group of friends wanted to help victims and show the world what being a Penn Stater really means. "We are so proud that Penn Staters and other supporters have banded together to help something positive come out of this tragedy," said the co-founder. "The importance of this cause has been so widely accepted and embraced, we hope the #ProudPSUforRAINN campaign will continue to rally efforts in support of preventing and treating sexual abuse."

"I've never seen something take off the way this campaign has," said Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's president. "From Jerry and Jaime Needel, Bob Troia and Larena Lettow, the four amazing Penn State alums who started this groundswell, to the dozens of alums and students who have worked hard to publicize it, to the 10,000+ people who have donated, the support has been remarkable. It really shows the true spirit of Penn State, which is so much bigger than the alleged actions of a few people."

Penn Staters in every state — alumni, students, parents and fans — and even supporters of football rivals Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Ohio State — all supported the campaign. The effort has been covered by nearly every national media outlet, from ABC to CBS to CNN and ESPN.

Many PSU fans have commented about how important this campaign is to them. "On behalf of my beloved alma mater and fellow Penn Staters, part of what it means to be a Nittany Lion is to stand strong in the face of adversity and have the courage to do what is right, no matter what. This is Penn State's darkest hour, so let's fight for our school and what it truly means to have a Penn State diploma. Our PSU football legacy means nothing compared to the hardships these victims will endure for the rest of their lives. Let's show them what we are made of, and that we will stand up for them when no one else would," said one donor.

Show your support for the #ProudPSUforRAINN campaign.

Peace Corps Bill Signed by President Obama
white house

President Barack Obama this month signed into law the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Act, which will help the organization address instances of abuse and assault, which some volunteers have experienced during their stints abroad.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who worked closely with RAINN when creating the legislation. "I can't emphasize enough how critical RAINN was to getting this bill passed," Rep. Poe said. "From the very beginning stages of drafting, I went to RAINN for instant expertise on some very difficult issues. After I introduced the bill, my colleagues were looking for an expert voice to speak on the bill. RAINN was that voice — respected, credible, and convincing. I don't know of another organization that can match RAINN's reputation on the Hill when it comes to sexual assault issues. This bill does not get passed without RAINN."

The new law is named for a 24-year-old woman who was murdered while serving in the Peace Corps in 2009. The bill requires precautionary measures and more comprehensive response protocols in instances of assault or abuse of any of the Peace Corps' 9,095 volunteers.

And the RAINN Day Cosmo Contest Winner is...
rainn san jose

With stiff competition from carefully coordinated events such as benefit concerts, art projects and roundtable discussions, the winner of the RAINN Day/Cosmo Magazine Multimedia Contest 2011 is San Jose State University's energetic flash mob.

Led by Staci Gunner, interim director of the Office of Student Conduct & Ethical Development, San Jose State students performed a lively rendition of Glee's mash-up of "Umbrella/Singing in the Rain" in a central area of campus during a busy time of day. Dancing with yellow umbrellas, these RAINN Day participants caught the attention of fellow students with their spirited energy and well-practiced choreography.

Thanks to this catchy, creative display, student volunteers distributed informational materials to 2,700 of their peers. As Gunner noted, "We were able to utilize the attraction of popular culture to convey the message: 'On our campus, sexual violence is not ok, victims are not alone, they are not at fault, and they can get help!'"

RAINN's communications manager, Megan Erhardt, congratulated Gunner, the San Jose State student volunteers, and all RAINN Day participants for their initiative and enthusiasm. "Their hard work ensured that students were educated about risk reduction, resources, and recovery," said Erhardt. "Every event made a tangible difference in the fight against sexual violence."

View the flash mob here!


 RAINN in the News

espn logo "A group of alumni started a website called to help raise money for RAINN... with a goal of [raising] a half-million dollars. On a smaller scale, four students stood outside the Hetzel Union Building on Friday asking for donations to support child-abuse prevention. After a couple of hours, they had filled two Tupperware containers with cash as people dropped off $5 or $10 bills on their way into the main student center."

ESPN highlights Penn State alumni and students working to help victims of sexual violence.

daily collegian logo "We want to get the focus back on the victims and show the world what it means to be a Penn Stater."

The Daily Collegian quoting ProudPSUforRAINN co-founder Jerry Needel.

cnn am logo "We learned how to give back at Penn State, and the wrong message is being sent about our university, and we wanted to take this and use this as a teachable moment, circle back, and talk about how these victims have gone through a tragedy. It's up to Penn State to lift them up, and also, at the same time, put the focus back on sexual abuse survivors all over the country."

— ProudPSUforRAINN co-founder and Penn State alum Larena Lettow on CNN's American Morning.

More #ProudPSUforRAINN media coverage:

anderson logo cnn logo huffington post logo ABC News logo USA today logo

washington post logo

TIME logo MSNBC Logo
More News
Helping Victims... and Saving on Taxes


As the Online Hotline experiences record usage, RAINN needs your help to ensure that every survivor receives the support that he or she needs and deserves. Your tax-deductible donation to RAINN before January 1 will have a real impact in the fight against sexual violence.

This holiday season, remember that 88¢ of every dollar you donate to RAINN will go directly to helping victims of sexual violence. Make your tax-deductible contribution today at

Online Hotline Experiences Record Demand
Patrick McDonald

In the wake of the Penn State story, RAINN's Online Hotline experienced a 54% increase in usage this month, and helped a record number of victims. The Online Hotline will help more than 30,000 survivors of sexual violence this year, up 36% from last year.

Spotlight on the Speakers Bureau: Patrick McDonald
Patrick McDonald

“Being a member of the RAINN's speaker's bureau is an incredible experience. By speaking up about my history, and about childhood sexual abuse, I find that I am happier, sleep easier, and find the world to be a truly beautiful place. RAINN is changing the world and I am proud to be a member of their Speaker's Bureau.”

Learn more about becoming a member of RAINN's Speakers Bureau

Volunteer Spotlight: Jillian Centner, Online Hotline Volunteer
Jillian Centner

“The best part of being a RAINN volunteer is simply being able to help others and change someone's life. My life has been enriched by my volunteer work because I have learned so much through it. Being a RAINN volunteer is one of the best things I have ever done. It means a lot to be able to be there for someone in his or her time of need. I also feel better knowing that I helped someone at the end of the day.”

Learn more about volunteering for RAINN

Lawmakers Making a Difference
Representative Glenn Thompson
Rep. Glenn

“The tragic developments at Penn State University have weighed heavy
on our hearts, and as our community moves forward and these individuals and their families continue to cope with adversity and pain, we look to continue to raise awareness of abuse and provide victims nation-wide with solace in the fact that they are not alone. RAINN continues to play a vital role for our community in its time of need, lending a helping hand through their services to those that have fallen prey to heinous acts. It is important to know they have a place to go for information and support, and I want thank RAINN for their work to reduce and prevent future sexual assaults in this community and others across the nation.”
Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson

Senator. Bob Casey
Bob Casey

“We must do all we can to prevent sexual violence from occurring, to help victims receive the help and support they need and to punish the perpetrators of these crimes. Since my days in state government, I have advocated on behalf of the victims of sexual assault. I am grateful to RAINN's shared commitment to this work. I look forward to working with RAINN to pass legislation such as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and passage of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)

Join the RAINN Facebook Community

FacebookRAINN is on Facebook and there are many ways to stay up-to-date! To get the latest news from RAINN about current issues, ways to get involved, and other information, join RAINN's Facebook page!

 Get Help Now

Hotline Ad

 Donate Now


 DoD Safe Helpline

Copyright 2011 RAINN | 1.800.656.HOPE |