Groups speakout against sexual violence

By Usman Ahmed

The University offices of Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) and Rockefeller Memorial Chapel will co-sponsor the eighth annual Speakout Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, an event that aims to create a supportive space for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence to acknowledge and share their stories.

Beginning this Tuesday, January 20 the event begins a week of raising awareness about the problems of sexual assault, and will feature four canvas panels presented around campus, located in the Regenstein Library South Lobby, first floor of the Reynolds Club, Swift Hall, and the Ratner Center.

During the week, survivors and supporters will be allowed to pin purple ribbons of solidarity onto the installations. The co-sponsors believe the ribbons symbolize the immense problem of sexual assault and domestic violence and, at the same time represent the collective strengths of the abused community.

The event will culminate next Tuesday night with the Speakout in Ida Noyes Hall. Organizers feel that the Speakout will be a unique and safe opportunity for survivors and their friends to share their stories of sexual assault and domestic violence. By sharing their experiences, survivors hope to overcome their isolation, and by listening to the stories of others, to offer support for those in need.

Sexual assault is statistically one of the most widespread crimes committed on college campuses across the nation.  The Department of Justice estimated in 2000 that between one-fifth and one-fourth of college women would be a victim of either a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.

According to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1 in 12 male college students committed acts that met the legal definition of sexual assault or domestic violence.  Studies also estimate that between 10 and 16 percent of men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

Despite these statistics, many students are unaware of what exactly constitutes sexual assault and domestic violence. Studies indicate that nearly 90 percent of men who committed rape under the legal definition adamantly asserted their innocence.

Victims are equally troubled: three out of four rapes are committed by an assailant known to the victim, yet 90 percent of victims who knew their attacker failed to report the attack to the police.

RSVP, in its 11th year at the University, believes events such as the Speakout will educate the University community on issues of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“Our mission is to promote healthy gender relations through education and dialogue,” said Rahul Sharma, director of RSVP.

The event is also being supported by the Office of Minority Student Affairs, the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Affairs, the University Community Service Center, and Safe Space.