IN APRIL, we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“Sexual assault awareness is critical because it starts a meaningful conversation,” says Doris Williams, director of the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire. “The more we increase awareness, the more likely a person will seek assistance and begin the healing process. As we educate the community, we hope more questions will be asked.”
Williams shares some sobering statistics from the United States Department of Justice. Over 90% of college sexual assault cases go unreported, so the statistics we do have are indicative of a much larger issue.
According to RAINN, women ages 18 to 24 are at a higher risk for sexual violence. 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault at some point in school.
Take Back the Night was created to help women feel safer in their environments, so its message was especially welcome at universities.
In the 1960s, women in Belgium and England protested their safety while walking alone, beginning the Take Back the Night protests.
The Take Back the Night Foundation started in 2001 with Katie Koestner, who was the first woman to speak publicly about being the victim of campus date rape. The foundation, which now holds events in over 800 communities, strives to create safe environments and respectful relationships.
This year, Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus and Savannah State University will both host Take Back the Night events.
Both schools observe Sexual Assault Awareness Week, which for Armstrong campus takes place Mar. 25-29 and for Savannah State takes place April 1-4.
The Take Back the Night event at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus on Mar. 28 is organized by Lauren Patterson, who is the co-chair of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) at all three Georgia Southern campuses.
“Take Back the Night looks a little different on the Armstrong campus,” explains Patterson. “We have a gathering call by student leaders that will meet up at the fountain, and there will be a silent march, which is a little different than in Statesboro. We let the students decide.”
After the march, there will be a rally in the International Gardens with a program by Peers Educating Peers. The program includes an open mic with the chance for survivors of sexual violence to talk about how it’s impacted their lives.
“I hope people will take away feeling empowered,” says Patterson. “Hopefully they’ll learn a lot of information about resources and sexual violence to have an appreciation for supporting survivors and hearing their stories. I hope it will be uplifting.”
Savannah State also holds a Take Back the Night event on April 2 with a walk around Alexis Circle.
The Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire is a partner for both events.
“It is essential for the Rape Crisis Center to partner with universities, because our mission is to provide resources and advocacy to victims of rape and sexual assault and prevention education to youth and adults,” says Williams. “We are determined to make sure we educate and serve this community, whether it is one-on-one services or a group if we are invited to increase awareness of these alarming issues.”