In support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, UWF presents its 11th Annual Take Back the Night event Wednesday, April 6.
The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a commitment march from Martin Hall to the Commons on the UWF campus. Events after the march include a rape aggression defense demonstration sponsored by the UWF Police Department, cookout, information fair, guest speakers, a multi-media presentation about sexual violence prevention, and an oath to protect.
“Often it’s hard for people to engage in this subject,” said Holley Frommel, a public relations specialist at UWF Health Promotional Services. “This event inspires men and women to confront many issues including rape, sexual violence, domestic violence and violence against women and children. The unifying theme throughout these diverse topics is the assertion that every single person has the right to be free from violence and the right to reclaim their lives if those rights are violated.”
Sponsored by the UWF Counseling and Wellness Services, Take Back the Night offers students the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about their experiences, which is the best way to talk about the sensitive subject matter.
“The only way to change sexual assault is for each individual to understand the reality,” said Patrick Preston, a therapist who serves UWF and Yarbrough and Associates, in an e-mail interview. “We as a community need to be proactive in changing our culture so rape and violence are no longer tolerated.”
Preston has dealt with too many sexual violence cases in the five years he has provided therapy in Pensacola.
“There has not been a four-week period of not hearing a new story of rape, sexual assault or incest,” Preston said. “These individuals struggle with blame, making meaning of a world where such violence is accepted, and not being believed. Some who are victimized experience periods of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and isolation. We have too many people who walk around right here in Pensacola who are living with trauma from violence.”
Statistics show that one in four women have survived rape or attempted rape.
“Chances are that those who have not been affected by the issue personally know someone who has,” Frommel said. “This makes rape everyone’s issue.”
It was that insight that created a new organization at UWF: Everyone’s Issue. With this new organization, students raise awareness year-round as well as broaden Take Back the Night. In collaboration with Sigma Alpha Mu, there will be a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event Monday, April 4 at 2:30 p.m. The event is part of the International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence. Men and women who wish to participate in the event must walk a mile in, yes, high heels. If you’re looking for a more traditional race, you can enter the 4th Annual Run for Their Lives 5K run/walk sponsored by Lakeview’s Rape Crisis Center on Saturday, April 2 on Pensacola Beach.
You can also support Sexual Assault Awareness Month with entertainment. Everyone’s Issue is hosting “The Vagina Monologues” one night only on Wednesday, April 13 from 7-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and support Women and Children in Haiti and Everyone’s Issue. UWF students get in for free.
“This is not a man-hating event,” Frommel said of the choice of events. “We are trying to build a strong partnership between men and women. Sexual violence is not gender specific. Both men and women can be the victims, offenders, survivors and bystanders. Men and women can pledge to do their part to prevent sexual violence, and we will provide them with the opportunity to do so at this year’s Take Back the Night.”
One initiative of Everyone’s Issue is to open minds about sexual assault. Victims should not be blamed and their stories should not be disregarded.
“Through Take Back the Night we are spreading the message that regardless of what someone wears, how much they flirt or if they choose to drink alcohol, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted,” Frommel said. “It is crucial to open a dialogue about sexual violence and take away the stigma. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that tends to blame victims, which actually removes blame from the perpetrators of these crimes.”
“People need to hear and tolerate the truth,” Preston added. “They must understand that rape and sexual violence is more prevalent than people think. We as a society are doing a terrible job of acknowledging the reality of rape and violence. The majority of people who say that they have been raped are telling the truth. They are not lying, things do not ‘just get out of control,’ and it had nothing to do with ‘what she was wearing’.”
The most important lesson to be learned is that you can make a difference.
“Each individual has the power to speak about the reality of rape and sexual violence,” Preston said. “Your voice is the fuel needed to create change.”
TAKE BACK THE NIGHT
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 6
WHERE: Martin Hall on UWF campus
WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Monday, April 4
WHERE: Cannon Lawn on UWF campus
COST: Free, open to UWF community only
WHEN: 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13 from 7-8:30 p.m.
WHERE: UC Conference Center on UWF campus
COST: $10, free to UWF students