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Saint Mary’s women speak out against sexual violence

Jillian Barwick | Friday, April 20, 2012

The Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame community recognized survivors of rape and sexual assault at Take Back the Night on Thursday evening, with events hosted across the two campuses.

Connie Adams, assistant director for the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO), worked with the team of sponsors for the event. The Core Council, Men Against Violence, and S-O-S of the Family Justice Center are co-sponsoring the event.

She said this is the second year BAVO has co-sponsored Take Back the Night (TBTN) with the Gender Relations Center at Notre Dame.

“The Take Back the Night event is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with survivors of rape and sexual assault, and to show a commitment to preventing this violence from happening in our community,” Adams said.

A candlelight vigil service began the night at 7 p.m. at Lake Marian on Saint Mary’s campus, followed by a walk to Notre Dame’s campus. There, participants shared their experiences at a “Speak Out,” and gathered together for a hospitality and music afterwards.

“The kickoff at Saint Mary’s provided a space to gather as a community and walk in solidarity to Notre Dame together as one,” Adams said. “As a women’s institution, it is essential that we offer ways to break the silence which often surrounds sexual violence.”

Adams said a strong component of TBTN is solidarity. It is logical for the deeply-intertwined communities of Saint Mary’s College and the University of Notre Dame to stand together against violence and support survivors, she said.

“A primary purpose of our offices is to implement programming to reduce and address sexual violence,” Adams said.

TBTN also allows Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame to embrace Catholic social teaching by recognizing the dignity of the human person and encouraging solidarity, Adams said.

“The primary aim of the event is to offer a space for survivors of sexual assault to have a voice, to shine their light into the darkness of violence,” she said. “However, it is critical for all members of our community to support those impacted by violence and to have a presence showing our commitment to prevent this violence from happening in our community.

“I hope students are empowered through their participation and recognize that our community is dedicated to eliminating violence.”

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest Network, the issues of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking impact college-age women at disproportionately higher rates than other demographics. National statistics indicate one out of every six women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. College-aged women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted, and 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, Adams said.

“If violence exists, regardless of the frequency, the need to raise awareness and promote action is essential,” Adams said. “We live in a society where violence is an epidemic, and it is our responsibility to create change and to support survivors.”