Students raise rape awareness

Students displayed anti-violence T-shirts and rallied against sexual assault Monday at the second annual spring Take Back the Night demonstration.

The day-long event was part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, during which organizations across the country try to educate people about violence. At GW, students distributed literature before holding a night-time rally and march through campus.

“We want people to take basic precautions so they do not end up in a situation, but we also want to acknowledge that there are survivors here on campus – probably more than people are aware of,” said Sarah Evangelista, emcee of the event and student leader for the Alliance for Sexual Assault Awareness, which sponsored Take Back the Night.

About 40 community members attended the rally, listening to speeches from anti-violence organization representatives.

Lori Robinson, author of “I Will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing from Sexual Assault and Abuse,” decided after her rape in 1995 to use her skills as a journalist and write a book to support survivors.

“Sexual assault is a national crisis of epidemic proportions that no one wants to talk about,” said Robinson, a D.C. native.

Members of Men Can Stop Rape, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Women Empowered Against Violence also spoke, addressing issues such as the prevalence of acquaintance rape and what men can do to stop violence against women.

After the five speakers finished addressing the crowd, those in attendance were encouraged to take the podium and recall their experiences related to sexual assault.

By 9:20 p.m., event organizers outfitted supporters with whistles and lists of chants for a march through campus, which men and women attended.

“Take Back the Night, the time is near; we will not be controlled by fear,” shouted the 30 members of the GW community who marched.

“Why not choose to participate in this event?” junior Jackie Terch said. “Violence is something that plagues all women.”

Between 2000 and 2002, there were 36 reports of sexual assault on campus, according to University Police crime statistics. Numbers for 2003 are not yet compiled.

Two counselors from the University Counseling Center were on hand during the rally and march to assist anyone who needed help confronting the reality of sexual assault.

For five hours before the rally, representatives from the Alliance for Sexual Assault Awareness passed out pamphlets including a “Dater’s Bill of Rights,” published by the University Police Department.

The group also displayed the “The Clothesline Project,” T-shirts created by those who have experienced gender-based violence. The shirts were emblazoned with slogans such as “I am not a victim, I am a survivor.”

GW alumnae Melisa Pardes, a sexual assault survivor, started the project.

“I don’t think there’s enough openness on this campus or anywhere in the (United) States,” Pardes said. “We need to raise awareness so sexual assault is seen as a crime and not just violence.”

The Alliance for Sexual Assault Awareness will sponsor two other events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The group is offering a self-defense class April 20 on the Strong Hall rooftop and a street harassment workshop on April 29 in the Marvin Center.

The group can be contacted at asaa@gwu.edu.

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