Vigil brings to light sex abuse statistics

By Abbi Overfelt

April 15, 2014

LAURINBURG — On the campus of St. Andrews University on Tuesday, some 20 students and faculty members joined with the staff of the county’s Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center for a grim education — on the pervasiveness of sexual assault on college campuses and elsewhere, and the effects it has on the people behind the numbers.

“Sex assault is something people do not like to talk about,” said Beth Taylor, executive director of the center. “Sadly, the statistics are currently that one in six women have experienced, at some point in their life, sexual assault of some kind and one in 33 men.

“I don’t think the male statistic is quite correct, I just think men don’t report as women do.”

During the short ceremony, which Betsy Dendy, faculty advisor for the university’s Gender Justice Club, estimated has been taking place annually for about eight years, candles were lit around the group which formed a circle in Vardell Building after rain drove them from the planned location of the campus bell tower. Each participant read a statistic handed to them by club vice president Sophie Kasian as bagpiper Stuart Marshall performed near the building’s front entrance.

Though the voices varied, all were somber. Facts read included the average age most become a victim for the first time — 9 years; that children with disabilities are at least four times more likely to become victims; 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker and that every day, more than three women in America are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

For Patrick Doyle, a senior and the president of the club which works in part to support the center, the numbers are always “disturbing.” But on the less-than-happy occasion, he was encouraged to see a diverse group which may share with their own campus clique some knowledge gleaned on how assault permanently affects the lives of others.

“It’s important to do something,” Dendy said. “I think that’s the hardest thing to do on a campus, is to intervene. … We have an obligation on this campus to take care of each other.”

Abbi Overfelt can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 12. Follow her on Twitter @aoinscotco.