Hope College senior swimmer Bethany Schmall became the fourth recipient of the Karen Page Courage Award on Monday, April 14, during the HOPEYs program at DeVos Fieldhouse.
The Karen Page Courage Award is presented to an individual in Hope Athletics who exhibits the courage to continue to play and compete despite overwhelming adversity.
The award is named in honor of beloved former Hope women’s tennis coach Karen Page, who lost her brave, five-year battle to breast cancer in the summer of 2009.
Schmall is a survivor of sexual assault in college by someone she knew. The abuse led Schmall to briefly leaving the Hope swimming & diving team.
“It flipped my world upside down,” Schmall said.
Schmall, who dealt with depression and other issues after being assaulted, eventually decided to rejoin the swim team. She co-captained the Flying Dutch during the 2013-14 season.
Schmall will graduate from Hope next month with a B.A. degree in religion. She plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Divinity.
“I thought I had faith, but I didn’t realize what it meant to have a true relationship with God,” Schmall said. “In a time where you can’t trust anyone and you don’t know where to turn, God is all you have. He’s always the person you could lean on.”
Schmall believes it is God’s calling for her to share her story publicly. She hopes to spur conversation that will dispel that damaging myths associated with sexual assault.
Schmall said there are other victims like her who need support and need to hear they don’t have to face their assault alone, nor are they responsible for what happened.
Open conversation needs to happen, Schmall said, so that the secrecy that has been part of sexual aassault can be lifted.
“I feel it is something that needs to be discussed,” Schmall said. “It doesn’t matter if you live in a small town, go to a Christian school or are strong physically, mentally and spiritually. Sexual assault can happen any time, anywhere. This happened to me at 6 o’clock in the afternoon. It was someone I knew really well.”