Survivors of Sexual Assault Share Experiences to Raise Awareness

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Someone brushes your shoulder. You make eye contact. He smiles at you and asks to buy you a drink. You accept. With excitement, you tell your friends it’s okay to leave you alone. He was handsome, charming, and intelligent. His company flattered you. This was your first encounter with a decent guy at a bar, or at least, he seemed decent.

Your friend invites you out to a club to celebrate his 22nd birthday in the Marina. You spot a girl in your English class across the dance floor. At the end of the night, you are both pretty drunk, and she asks you to walk her home. Like any gentleman, you walk her up to her apartment. She says, “Stay with me tonight,” and begins to unbuckle your belt. You’re too drunk to think clearly, but you know this isn’t how you want your first time to be. You tell her. She says, “ If you don’t do this, I’ll tell everyone how big of a pansy you are.” Embarrassed, you nod your head and go inside, not wanting to risk your reputation.

One in five women and one in 71 men have been raped in their lifetimes. That’s 18 million women in this country who have been raped, and more than one million rapes that occur every year.

Sexual assaults are not just  statistics, said Christina Seruge, an international studies and marketing major. “These things actually happen. It is unfortunate that people don’t realize that until it happens to someone they know or to themselves.”

Every April, USF recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Take Back the Night event, held last Thursday, was a night for all survivors of sexual assault and supporters to come together, hear stories, and raise awareness against sexual violence. From Denim Day to the Walk Against Rape, the USF Gender and Sexuality Center held an event every week throughout April.

For over 35 years in the United States, TBTN has focused on preventing sexual violence and thousands of college campuses, women’s centers, and rape crisis centers have sponsored events all over the country.

The first TBTN event in the United States took place in October of 1975 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The first international TBTN event occurred at the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in March of 1976 in Brussels, Belgium. Over 2,000 women representing 40 countries attended the event.

TBTN started four years ago at USF according to Jenna Recupero, the assistant director of student conduct rights and responsibilities. “ This event is truly that come together, collaborative moment at the end of the year before the walk against rape, the last effort to say this is our community peace before we go to the larger community and take our voices out from just USF to San Francisco and the greater community,” she said.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month has been in the works since last semester when a committee was formed. The committee consisted of Recupero, faculty from the Gender and Sexuality Center, and student and resident life representatives.

TBTN at USF started with a candlelight vigil, where students and faculty shared survivor stories, poems, and thoughts on sexual assault. At the event, there was also a Wall of Hope, where attendees got to write their thoughts and a table to make customized t-shirts.

After the candle light vigil, attendees were asked to hold up their shirts and walk to the Gender and Sexuality Center for a more in-depth private discussion where survivors came forward and shared their stories. There were around 15 women at the discussion. Some students expressed that they were there to support their loved ones who have been a victim of sexual assault, while others came to learn more about sexual assault and the resources given to victims on campus.

Recupero said,  “It is a way for us to take back the night, for us to take back the control, and for us to be able to dictate us survivors that this is the way we want to see the night happen and the way we want our stories to be shared.”

 

 

 

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