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The Blue & Gray Press | July 18, 2019

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Students march against sexual abuse

BY BRIAN MCLAUGHLIN450_takebackthenight_0

To help raise awareness and offer support to survivors, the University of Mary Washington community observes National Sexual Assault Awareness Month each year in April. Take Back the Night is one of the largest events on campus, used to raise awareness and encourage people to speak out against sexual violence.

Sponsored by the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault, Take Back the Night took place at Ball Circle on Wednesday, April 16th at 6 p.m.

Take Back the Night is an event aimed to shed light on the victims and the issue of sexual assault, along with providing victims with a safe space to share their stories.  Many members of the community, including the Counseling and Psychological Services Center, Feminists United on Campus and UMW sorority, Alpha Mu Sigma, organized the event.

Each year, there are approximately 237,868 victims of sexual assault. Women aged 18 to 25, are four times more likely to experience sexual assault than the rest of the general population.

However, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported due to fear, shame or the worry that the victim will not be believed.

The night began with a performance by UMW’s female a cappella group, BellAcappella, for the crowd gathered outside Lee Hall. Afterward, a procession of students, faculty and community members marched through campus. The march was silent and reflective, and there were several pauses in which RCASA representative Jay Colligan read out statistics on sexual abuse for participants to reflect on.

Upon returning to Lee Hall, those attending were invited to share their stories with the group. Several brave students stood up to tell their stories. Some were survivors, while others were friends or relatives of a survivor. In addition to sharing stories of their experiences, many speakers focused on how to comfort a friend or loved one who has suffered from sexual abuse.

“Provide any support you can,” said Laura Wilson, a psychology professor at UMW. “Listen to them, believe them, encourage them to find help from one of the many resources on campus,” added Raymond Tuttle, director of judicial affairs and community responsibility

Throughout the night, representatives from CAPS and RCASA were on hand to talk to any students who were in crisis, or to prove more information on how to help a loved one that is suffering. Many students expressed their desire to help and support their peers.

“Anything I can do to help anybody is something I am more than willing to do,” said senior Christian Wiedow.