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Sexual Assault Awareness Week kicks off

Megan Hemler | Monday, February 22, 2010

Sexual assaults are among the most terrible of human experiences, and people of all communities have a moral obligation to work to prevent them from happening, said Elizabeth Moriarty, assistant director for the Gender Relations Center.

Sexual Assault Awareness Week, which began yesterday, is an opportunity for survivors to speak out and begin to heal, while also increasing awareness within a broader audience, she said.

The weeklong series of events kicked off with a poster campaign. Today, an event titled “Take Back the Night” will seek to “literally break the silence surrounding the violence of sexual assault with voices of prayer, chanting and the sharing of stories,” Moriarty said.

“‘Take Back the Night’ is unique for us because we start with a prayer service, something not every college or university can do,” Moriarty said. “We start the march around campus at the Log Chapel this year, and we’re able as a religious institution to ask publicly questions about how to pray about this.”

Laura Lauck, a “Take Back the Night” student organizer, said, “The week’s purpose is to bring about awareness of this issue on campus and worldwide, but it also serves to bring people together to work towards healing and change.”

Moriarty said she hopes the awareness week will be beneficial.

 “A few years ago, our office did some intense focus group research and found that students really appreciated awareness weeks because they had lots of ways to be involved or only involved in one specific way,” Moriarty said. “It really brings more of a public presence to the topic and provides an opportunity to educate, both for those directly affected or those with friends or family who need their support.”

Moriarty said one in four women will be a survivor of an attempted or completed sexual assault by the time they finish college.

“The idea is that this isn’t just a women’s issue, this affects our whole community, whether you realize it or not. Many people do in fact know someone who has been touched by this, they just don’t realize it,” she said.

Moriarty emphasized that student concerns are a top priority, and the event schedule was made flexible to reflect what students are looking for at that time.

Other events throughout the week include a screening of “The Accused,” co-sponsored by the Athletic Department, as well as various resource tables with information and petitions, all in an effort to promote solidarity and reject sexual violence.

The week culminates in what Moriarty called, “our biggest event,” which is the “Time to Heal” dinner at Legends Friday night. Last year’s dinner drew 220 attendees, Moriarty said.
“We’ve realized that Notre Dame is small enough that we can have an awareness week that affects the whole campus, not just a section of it,” she said.

“When we’re made aware of an injustice we are obliged to object to it … When you see people within the community really rallying around those who have been directly affected, it’s a powerful experience. Not only does the individual become transformed, but the community as well.”