Fairy lights and supportive signs decorated the room as more than 150 survivors and allies gathered at the 33rd annual Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center Survivor Speak-out in the Michigan League Ballroom Sunday evening.
SAPAC provides free and confidential support to survivors of sexual assault and allies. SAPAC also holds trainings on bystander intervention, ally training and more.
SAPAC, in collaboration with the School of Nursing, will also offer a new course called Gender Based Violence: From Theory to Action next semester, introducing the medical, legal, social and cultural contexts of gender based violence to help reduce and end it.
Experiences ranged from stalking to sexual assault. Speakers echoed feelings of confusion, sadness and strength while telling their stories to the audience. Many highlighted a goal of showing support to survivors and assuring them they are not alone.
The event comes amid the first year of the #MeToo movement. The University released an Office of Institutional Equity report in September detailing an increase in reports of sexual misconduct last year. Other incidents, such as the alleged rapes committed by Music, Theater & Dance professor David Daniels, have also been reported.
Attendees could also add leaves with messages to a hand-painted tree to support survivors.
LSA junior Evan Stuber, a SAPAC volunteer, said she believed the event showed support to those who did not feel comfortable reporting their experience to the University or law enforcement.
“I think on campus it’s important to let people know that this doesn’t need to be a whole world issue,” Stuber said. “If someone’s coming and disclosing, even if they don’t want to take their story to the public sphere, … (it’s important to show) that we are still here to support them in however they would like to address those problems and try to foster growth.”
LSA sophomore Allison Cohen said she noticed a theme throughout the talks about many events incidents occurring on campus. Crime reports to the Division of Public Safety and Security — which still do not encompass all behavior reported to SAPAC — counted more than 70 cases of sexual misconudct on campus property in 2017.
“There’s definitely a reoccurring theme,” Cohen said. “A lot of it happens on campus, which is really terrible. A lot of it involves fraternities and alcohol … a lot of things that people say starts happening to them is in college or later years in high school at parties.”
Cohen also serves as a peer educator for the Gamma Phi Beta sorority and plans to continue to look out for those around them to help prevent incidents of sexual assault.
“I know for me whenever I’m at a party and see a girl, even if I don’t know her (who) looks like she could be getting into a bad situation, I always try to make sure they’re okay,” Cohen said. “I’m making sure other people are doing that too. When other people see you doing that, it reminds them that they should be looking out as well.”
SAPAC has a 24/7 crisis hotline and can be reached at 734-936-3333.