LAURINBURG — St. Andrews University Gender Justice Club held a moment of silence to encourage others to speak up about sexual assault.
April is sexual assault awareness month, and more than 45 students and county residents joined the club Tuesday night at the bell tower on SAU’s campus to promote consciousness about sexual assault, to honor victims, and to learn how their actions might unwittingly silence someone who wanted to speak out to say they were assaulted.
The theme for this year’s observance is: Embrace your voice.
The event was a collaboration between the Club and the local Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center.
Betsy Dendy, advisor for the club and gender studies professor, told the crowd that odds are that many of them know someone who was assaulted and that using their voice could protect others and encourage understanding.
“Whether you speak out against locker room talk or help someone better understand the issues, your voice is powerful and necessary in this conversation,” Dendy read from the proclamation issued by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “Individuals can embrace their voices to show support for survivors stand up to victim blaming, shut down rape jokes, correct harmful misconceptions promote everyday consent and practice healthy communication with kids.”
Dendy warned that assault victims often gauge the attitudes and opinions of others in their life on the topic of sexual assault when deciding whether to disclose the assault and to whom to disclose. Actions that one may not consider harmful can silence a victim.
“They might not have told anyone out of fear of being blamed of judged,” Dendy said. “A comment or joke based on assumptions or stereo types might not seem like a big deal, but it could make someone feel unsafe about sharing personal, painful things with you.”
Attendees lit candles as the sun set and read statistics related to sexual violence before observing a moment of silence.
Freshman Matthew White is a member of the Gender Justice Club and came to the vigil in support of relatives, both male and female who have been assaulted.
“One of the main reasons I came out tonight is because I was raised by a father who wanted me to be a genuine gentleman which means protecting the ones that can’t protect themselves. I’ve had family members and many friends that I know have been sexually assaulted,” White said. “So having a voice for the people who can’t have a voice for themselves means more to me because I have a voice for myself. Knowing to have a voice isn’t confidence. It isn’t bravery. It’s knowing what’s right and not right.”
The sexual assault could be more crucial to understand for college students given that one in five women are raped while in college.
Though she is not a member of the club, freshman, Kylie Morgan attended the vigil because she believes that it is important to promote awareness.
“Once a thing like this happens the person’s not in the same mindset they were ever again. It’s a traumatizing experience whether you’re the victim or the friend or family of the victim. You see the person change … seclude themselves because they’re scared,” Morgan said.
She also believes that colleges need better enforcement of the rules concerning parties, and reporting of sexual assault.
“If more people know about it things won’t happen as bad. People will watch more at parties. On college campuses it’s even more important people don’t know their limits with alcohol or they don’t know their strength or even the definition of no,” Morgan said. “Colleges need to be strict on the rules and enforcing meetings on [the subject] this is what to do if you see something or this is what going to happen if you do something. This is what to look for. College is a place where memories are supposed to be made, good memories not traumatic ones.”
If you are a victim or know a victim who needs help, call the Domestic Violence & Rape Crisis Center of Scotland County 910-276-5505 or call 911.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds in the US, and for every 8 minutes the victim is a child. One in six women has been victimized by rape or attempted rape, and one in 33 men have been the victim of rape or attempted rape.
A study released by the CDC on the cost of rape found that the crime costs the US $122,461 per victim over the course of a lifetime to cover, “criminal justice costs, property loss or damage, lost work productivity, and short-and long-term physical and mental health treatment for victims.”
Sexual assault and rape rates of have dropped 63% since 1993, from 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993, to 1.6 per 1000 in 2015, according to RAINN.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169