Women’s Center strives to raise awareness with annual Take Back the Night event
Melissa Richard, Freda Grant, and Julian Wilson from the Women’s Center pose in front of a Take Back the Night banner.
Aaron Berkowitz – General Assignment Reporter
Although Sexual Assault Awareness Month isn’t until April, Graduate Intern in the Women’s Center, Freda Grant said her staff tries to raise awareness for the issue year-round.
“We’re all responsible and can contribute to the cause,” said Grant. “We [the Women’s Center staff] believe that a lot of prevention can come from having simple conversations and communicating with each other about the true meaning of consent as well as sharing some personal experiences.”
Grant said the Women’s Center’s efforts to provide a safe zone for “survivors” corresponds with the theme of the annual event, Take Back the Night.
“This year the theme is ‘unity’ and we are really focusing on getting rid of the stigmas that come along with sexual assault,” said Grant. “We want to empower all groups of survivors to show that even if they feel alone they are not the only ones who have gone through it. This event allows survivors to share their stories and come together to support one another.”
According to TakeBackTheNight.org the annual event is celebrated differently in over 30 countries to work towards ridding the world of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse, and all other forms of sexual violence. SE
Julian Wilson, another graduate intern in the Women’s Center, said he feels very strongly about raising awareness about sexual assault because of how all the misconceptions that surround the issue.
“I primarily work around bystander intervention to show the importance of standing up and saying something when we something going on that’s wrong,” said Wilson. “A lot of people assume that it’s only females who are sexually abused or assaulted, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Most guys who don’t come forward because they feel like they have been emasculated, but its equally important they seek out the help they need to assure their well-being.”
Wilson said he specializes in identifying warning signs to prevent any form of sexual abuse from occurring. Some of the signs he mentioned that people should be on the look out for include: paying attention to anyone who is feeding someone alcoholic beverages or taking advantage of someone who is intoxicated.
RAINN.org reported that males make up 10 percent of all sexual assault, abuse, and rape victims. The term sexual assault is defined, as any sexual touching that isn’t consensual. The website also said 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, 66 percent of assaults are committed by someone known by the victim, and 98 percent of offenders will not spend any time in jail/prison.
“Speaking up is essential. If we have a culture of reporting these cases instead of keeping it to ourselves the perpetrators will begin to fear punishment,” said Wilson. “The culture of silence is what facilitates people being able to get away with this over and over again. If one offender gets punished, you could’ve potentially saved someone else from being victimized or assaulted.”
Grant said her staff encourages anyone who has suffered from any form of sexual abuse to utilize the resources they provide on campus, as well as contacting SCSU’s Sexual Assault Resource Team [SART].
SART’s purpose is to offer support to survivors with the hopes of empowering them while helping them with their healing process.
“You can always come to the center or reach out to Cathie Christy (S.A.R.T Coordinator & Women’s Center) and she will help you with anything she can,” said Grant. “We want to get away from all of the stereotypes and make this more of a public health issue.”
Stoprelationshipabuse.org listed victim blaming as an existing issue linked with many sexual abuse cases. Both Grant and Melissa Richard, sexual assault violence prevention specialist in the Women’s Center, said they both agreed that all offenders should be held accountable, no matter who they are.
“If someone were to come to me I always believe them,” said Richard. “Being able to help students in need is very rewarding. We are here to connect them to the resources they need and they’re our main priority even if they choose to not press any charges.”
The Women’s Center is located inside of Schwartz Hall’s basement and the staff all said they want everyone to utilize their office’s services. Their page on the SCSU website lists all of their upcoming events for students and faculty to attend.
“The center is a safe zone,” said Grant, “and we are here to help you and let you know that you’re not alone.”
Photo Credit: Aaron Berkowitz