Students rally against violence, rape

More reports of sexual violence may actually be good news, as the University has stepped up efforts to make students comfortable speaking about their experiences with assault.

As part of this effort, more than 60 people attended the biannual Take Back the Night event in Kogan Plaza Thursday night. Take Back the Night is a nationwide sexual assault and domestic violence awareness program, featuring speakers, a march, candlelight vigil and the clothesline project, in which T-shirts are decorated by survivors of violence to express their emotions.

The mood among attendees was welcoming and peaceful, despite the difficult topic of discussion.

Julie Fulcher, director of Break the Cycle, a domestic violence awareness group, said that although progress has been made in preventing sexual assault, much more must be done. Break the Cycle recently opened an office in D.C. where students have easier access to their services.

On campus, University Police Chief Dolores Stafford started the Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation Team in 1992. Stafford said there were only two or three reports of sexual offenses after the team’s first year, but in the last three years 61 instances of sexual assault have been reported.

Stafford said in an e-mail that her department’s assault consultation team and students from the Alliance for Sexual Assault Awareness “combined forces last year and that collaboration has given the University an opportunity to work directly with the students.”

Stafford said the team is in the process of creating a Web site to provide students with information they need to know about sexual assault. The site should be available by the end of the year.

“(There will be information) regarding sexual assault resources, response and materials available at GW,” Stafford said.

Junior Stefanie Fisher, of GW’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, helped organize Thursday’s Take Back the Night. She said the event helps gives students a forum to talk about their experiences in a non-threatening environment.

“It gives people the chance to speak up when they otherwise wouldn’t have the courage too,” Fisher said.

Fisher said she was happy with the attendance of the event.

“Even if you only affect one person, you can’t play down the importance of that,” Fisher said.

Junior Jonathan Dyer said all students should be aware about domestic violence.

“A guy like me would never have been exposed to something like this if I hadn’t walked by,” Dyer said. “I think awareness of statistics is really important.”

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