“Anyone can have courage to step in.”
This is the message junior political science and religious studies major Adrianna Branin wants everyone to know.
Recently, due to her stopping a sexual assault, she won the Biden Courage Award, named after former vice president Joe Biden. The award is given annually to students who work to stop sexual assault on college campuses.
Last September, she had been walking home from a party in a crowd of about 30 people when she saw a drunk woman with her breast hanging from her shirt. Several men began to huddle her, taking photos and one even touching her breast.
Branin saw and quickly took action.
“I pushed past the group and tried covering her up,” she said. “When they saw how I grabbed onto her, they knew I was not there to party.”
After she managed to get the girl to safety, she went after as many men in the group as she could, telling them to delete the photographs and letting them know what they did was wrong.
When it comes to the girl she helped, Branin barely remembers her.
“I would not be able to point her out. I’ve probably walked past her so many times. It might sound like a long story, but this all happened in about three minutes.”
Branin later told the Title IX Office as well as Susan Graham, the director for the Haven Project. Branin is a peer educator for the program.
After hearing the information, Graham later put Branin’s name in for the Biden award. Branin originally took the nomination lightly; she did not expect to be declared the winner.
“Shocked doesn’t even begin to describe it. The winner from the year before me had been shot when he was stopping an assault, so I didn’t think I would ever win. If you would have told me two years ago that I’d meet Joe Biden, I’d think you were insane.”
Branin was informed a week before she was supposed to go to New York for the ceremony. In that time, she had to prepare a short speech and make sure she knew what she needed to do.
Branin said she was anxious to meet Biden until she came face to face with him.
“There’s something calming about him. He is definitely a grandfather type. As soon as he saw me, he took me and introduced me to others.
“He said ‘you’d think with what she did that she was six-foot-four and 220 pounds.’”
During her speech, Branin thanked her family, the Biden Foundation, Graham and many others. She also thanked those who were trying to help their communities.
“In this day more than ever, we need to practice empathy and love toward our neighbors of all faiths, races and backgrounds; no one has to do everything, but everyone must do something,” she said at the event.
Along with meeting Biden, she met other celebrities including Elaine Welteroth, editor-in-chief for Teen Vogue, who she is now friends with through Instagram.
Branin has also helped with the social media and website for It’s On Us, a movement created by former president Barack Obama to stop sexual assault on campuses.
To Branin, the act was not meant to be heroic nor courageous, it was something she thought anyone would do.
“It’s not the first time I’ve done it, and it’s not the last. Sometimes it surprises me to think about how few people would step in.”
For her, Graham had been the reason she was able to do what she did.
“Bystander intervention is big at the Haven Project, and because of [Graham], I’ve put it into my daily life.”
Branin has one message for anyone who comes across a problem, whether or be sexual assault or any other.
“Regardless of your strength or size, you are able to prevent harm in your community, even if it’s just being kind.”
If you witness sexual assault, help out and contact University Police at 724-357-2141 and the Title IX Office at 724-357-3402. If you have experienced sexual assault or violence, the Haven Project offers support and can be contacted at 724-357-3947.