Tomorrow marks April 1st and the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As I write this I am reflecting on my past year which has culminated in an event at The Awakening Center on April 15th that I am excited to share with everyone.
On Friday April 15th, from 6-9pm The Awakening Center will be hosting “Breaking the Cycle of Silence” where we will screen the documentary Searching for Angela Shelton followed by a discussion on sexual violence and the silence surrounding the issue in our society. The documentary tells the story of Angela Shelton as she travels across the United States interviewing women with the name Angela Shelton. During her journey, Shelton discovered that over half of the participants had experienced some type of sexual violence in their lives. As I watched this documentary for the first time as a freshman in college, the gravity of the film did not fully hit me. It was not until participating in DePaul's “Take Back the Night,” an event focused on ending sexual violence towards women and girls, that I realized how prevalent sexual violence is in our society, yet remains largely unspoken about.
A portion of “Take Back the Night” is set aside for a speak out where participants are allowed to open up in a safe space and discuss how sexual violence has impacted their lives. The speak out allows for these people to have a voice and break the pervading silence regarding this issue. As I sat through the speak out, it finally hit home that people I was close with had personally been affected by sexual violence throughout their lives. I could not believe that this was something I did not know about my friends, people I talked to on a regular basis and cared about. Finally, I realized just how prevalent this issue is in our society and realized just how many people I knew had experienced some type of sexual violence.
Remaining silent only continues to allow for sexual violence to exist. It keeps the feelings and emotions someone may feel after experiencing it bottled inside as a secret. This cycle of silence allows for us to turn our heads rather than dealing with and stopping sexual violence, not just towards women, but anyone.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men report experiencing sexual assault during their lives. On college campuses 1 in 4 women report being raped during their time as a student. Due to many factors including shame and embarrassment, it is believed these numbers may be underreported.
Start a dialogue today and help us end the silence surrounding sexual assault. With more voices together, we can educate men and women that sexual violence is never acceptable. Together, we can foster an environment where victims of sexual violence can speak about it and begin to heal.
Join The Awakening Center on April 15th from 6-9pm to raise money for Rape Victim Advocates of Chicago, a non-for-profit looking to advocate for victims of sexual violence and change the way our system deals with sexual violence, and to begin a dialogue to help break the cycle of sexual assault and violence.
Katie is an undergraduate intern from DePaul University and a recent cast member of DePaul's 2011 production of The Vagina Monologues. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on “Breaking the Cycle of Silence” or to reserve your spot on April 15th.
We are asking for a minimum $9 donation/$5 donation for students. All proceeds benefit Rape Victim Advocates. For more information on RVA visit: http://www.rapevictimadvocates.org/