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Week addresses sexual assault

John-Paul Witt | Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Incidents of sexual assault do happen on Notre Dame’s campus, said Men Against Violence president Alex Chapeaux, and this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week should educate students about the problem and inform them of prevention strategies.

This is the third year Sexual Assault Awareness Week has been held at Notre Dame since its inception by the Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention under former student body president Lizzi Shappell.

“It’s important to recognize that Notre Dame has a problem like many other campuses, and it’s important to address that problem, like any other campus,” Chapeaux said.

The week will feature several major events designed to “raise awareness” about sexual assault at Notre Dame, said senior Emily Weisbecker, the president of Feminist Voice and a staff member at the Gender Relations Center.

Weisbecker wrote “Loyal Daughters,” a play performed last semester that used real stories told by Notre Dame students about sexuality and sexual violence. “Loyal Daughters” was shown Tuesday night in Mendoza.

Weisbecker said the week is about opening students’ eyes to realize that fellow classmates may have been victims of sexual violence.

“We feel like Notre Dame is really safe and in a ‘bubble’, but it’s important for us to realize how to protect both ourselves and our friends from violence,” she said. “Also, this week will educate those who have been assaulted and aren’t aware of the resources on campus.”

A ‘Take Back the Night’ prayer service, march and speak-out will be held Wednesday at 8 p,m. at the Grotto. Afterward, refreshments and counselors for those in need will be available in the Sorin Room of LaFortune.

‘Take Back the Night’ mirrors similar events that take place in cities and on college campuses across the country, Assistant Rector of Breen-Phillips Hall Elizabeth Moriarty said in an e-mail to The Observer.

“‘Take Back the Night’ began as a movement to protest the violence that women experienced while walking in public at night, but has grown to encompass all forms of violence, especially sexual assault,” Moriarty said.

The march and the speak-out are designed to “bring the community together” and allow survivors of sexual assault to share their stories, she said.

To educate students about ways they can prevent themselves from being victims of sexual assault, tactics for Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) will be taught by Notre Dame Security/Police officers Thursday at 7 p.m. in Hammes-Mowbray Hall, Weisbecker said.

“The RAD program consists of basic self-defense and learning how to be aware of your surroundings,” Weisbecker said, “It’s important that we publicize resources like this that teach how to prevent assaults.”

The week’s organizers will stage a demonstration between DeBartolo and Fitzpatrick Halls Friday between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m. to commemorate the “one in four women who will be the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault by the time she graduates,” Moriarty said.

The week will conclude Saturday with a dinner and discussion sponsored by Men Against Violence, Chapeaux said.

“[The] Men are having a dinner at the end of the week to enter into dialogue and brainstorming about what it means to be a man at Notre Dame – the good and the bad,” Chapeaux said, “Both men and women are victims, so both need to stand up against sexual assault.”

The week may seem geared toward women, Chapeaux said, but he encouraged men to participate as well.

“It’s almost a guarantee that everyone on this campus will know someone who is a survivor of sexual assault,” Chapeaux said. “Think of your mother, sister, daughter or friend that might be a victim and might not have otherwise had the courage to tell their story.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Week is sponsored by student groups Feminist Voice, Men Against Violence and the Identity Project of Notre Dame, as well as the Gender Relations Center and Student Government.