By Ashwini Natarajan, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 8, 2012
At the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center’s 26th annual Speak Out event on Thursday. survivors of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment gathered together and shared their experiences.
LSA seniors Lauren McIntosh and Ellie Howe, co-coordinators of the event, stressed the importance of having an open forum where survivors can tell their stories.
“The event (was) created to break the silence surrounding sexual violence on campus and the Ann Arbor community,” McIntosh said. “We’ve created a safe, confidential space where survivors can get up and tell their stories in an affirming environment where they know they are being heard by caring ears and supporters.”
After each survivor shared his or her story with the group, a candle was lit to represent the solidarity, respect and support that the event attempted to instill.
Rackham student Ali Chetwynd, a volunteer at Speak Out, said the event was geared toward cultivating an atmosphere of safety and warmth.
“A lot of the symbolism of this event … is designated to give a visual correspondence to the sense of cumulative support and solidarity described,” Chetwynd said. “Speak Out is very overt about the idea that each individual who speaks out becomes part of a whole by doing so.”
The event also aimed to raise awareness about SAPAC, which supports survivors of sexual violence. Speakers emphasized the severity of sexual violence statistics on college campuses, citing the fact that one in four college women and one in nine college men have been sexually assaulted.
They added it is vital that University students are educated in how to take action when dealing with an individual affected by sexual violence.
“My personal goal is that if anyone has a survivor that comes to them ... they can take them to SAPAC and to appropriate resources,” Howe said. “So my goal is for everyone to know enough about SAPAC so that if they care for a survivor, they can help them.”
Public Health graduate student Carley Flanery, who has been a member of SAPAC for five years, said she hopes awareness about sexual violence will soon be a higher priority for the University’s administration, and SAPAC is working toward advancing this progress.
“Because of the nature of the subject, it is not the highest priority for the University to talk about, but I feel like we are making strides in it at the same time,” Flanery said. “(SAPAC is) doing programs that are the best in the nation in terms of how education goes.”
SAPAC provides numerous resources for survivors of sexual violence, individuals seeking help for others who have been sexually assaulted and students who want information about protecting themselves against sexual violence. One of the organization’s most popular resources is its peer-led support group in which survivors share and express concerns among peers.
SAPAC also has a 24-hour crisis line and an office line for survivors and those assisting survivors.