As we delve into April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we are reminded that there is a sinister, unspoken truth that lurks within our communities.
“In this county, one in three women are a victim of sexual assault and one in six men are a victim of sexual assault,” said Alissa R. Ackerman, PhD, an Assistant Professor of the Criminal Justice Social Work Program at the University of Washington, Tacoma.
When statistics like this exist, it doesn’t matter if you are a man, woman, child or adult. Sexual assault affects all of us. In order to make our communities safer, a group of UWT students are diligently working towards a solution.
Kari Gudgeon, the Vice President of the UWT Criminal Justice League, is collaborating with UWT Social Work students to host a series of events to combat sexual assault.
From April 13-17, there will be a week-long art display called “Clothesline” along the Prairie Line Trail. What makes the display emotionally powerful is that “The Clothesline Project is an art display of t-shirts decorated by survivors of violence,” said Gudgeon.
At 6 p.m. on April 14, UWT will host a sexual assault panel in Williams Philip Hall where speakers (including sex crime researchers and members of law enforcement) will talk about the effects of sexual assault and ways we can combat it.
In addition, April 16 marks “Take Back the Night” where UWT community members band together to show support towards those whose lives have been impacted by sexual assault. More importantly, survivors will share their stories and take back their voices by “speaking out against sexual and domestic violence,” said Ackerman, who will be the featured speaker. This event is open to the public and all interested parties are welcome and encouraged to attend. The event takes place on the Prairie Line Trail at the Grand Staircase.
With all of these awareness campaigns taking place, there is no excuse to turn a blind eye. The victims of sexual assault are all around us. They could be your mother, brother, sister, or even your best friend. No one is safe in the eyes of evil. Predators lurk everywhere, but we can fight back through the use of knowledge and raising awareness.
But the purpose of these events extends beyond just making the local community safer, it’s to break the silence on an issue that is still seen as taboo.
“Only 40 percent of sexual assault cases are reported,” said Ackerman.
To those who’ve suffered at the hands of sexual assault, with all due respect, I sincerely encourage you to show up and make your voice heard. Please don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. Please don’t allow yourself to be pressured into silence when there are so many others with similar stories to yours. You are not alone. Please stand up and bravely fight back against sexual assault.