If you think the large vagina replica was the only highlight of the V-Day Campaign rally last Friday afternoon on the Diag, think again. Enclosed by red caution tape that read Rape Free Zone, campaign speakers shared personal opinions and poems to bring awareness to the problem of violence against women.
Speakers yelled their demands for sexual equality into the microphones and voiced their refusal to fear the fight to gain it. Supporters of the event and interested passersby braved the freezing cold to listen to speakers and explore the booths of other organizations that came out in support of V-Day.
The rally was part of a number of events held as a precursor to weekend performances of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, a play about women claiming power over their bodies.
One supporter who helped run the event was co-producer and V-Day Campaign member, RC junior Ruthie Freeman. Freeman said she became an active member of the campaign from day one of her freshman year at the University.
“I couldn’t ignore violence against women anymore,” she said.
Today, Freeman said she hopes the event will raise awareness that violence against women does, and is, happening on a local, national and international level.
“Worldwide, it is fairly pandemic. On a global scale, one in three women will experience violence. On a more local level, one in four women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted in the four years she is there,” said Freeman.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, it is estimated between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experienced completed or attempted rape during their college years.
In addition, the NCIPC also found intimate partner violence occurs across all social, economic, religious, and cultural groups, but most frequently affects young women and those below the poverty line. Adolescents with a history of IVP reported increased levels of depression, substance abuse, anti-social behavior and in females, suicidal behavior.
“The problem with sexual assault,” said Freeman, “is people aren’t saying anything.”
The NCIPC reported that of all crimes, rape is one of the most underreported. The National Women’s Study posted statistics through the NCIPC that found 84 percent of women did not report being raped to police.
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, a program under the University’s Division for Student Affairs, currently offers sexual assault victims on campus a 24-hour crisis line to report and discuss violent acts. While at the event, SAPAC also provided sheets to help educate students on adjacent issues such as supporting those who have survived instances of sexual abuse, how to identify if you are in an abusive relationship, rape drugs and the influence of alcohol.
However, SAPAC was not the only student group that came to support the fight against violence against women. Men Against Violence Against Women was also there to provide information and recruit members. Handing out brochures that explained their cause and cited statistics like those from Family Violence Intervention for the Justice System, that said boys who witness their father’s violence are ten times more likely to engage in spouse abuse compared to boys from nonviolent households, the group made it known they wanted the violence against women to stop.
Recognizing the need for programs designed to help men assist the fight against violence is Coert Ambrosino, an LSA sophomore and second year member of Men Against Violence Against Women.
“I think violence against women is a huge problem on campuses,” said Ambrosino, “I think it is groups like V-Day that raise awareness and make a difference.”
Over the past two years, Ambrosino said that the MAVAW group has remained small, something he said he would like to see change over the coming years.
“Getting men involved is a challenge we are always facing,” he said, adding that he would like to see more guys get involved — something they can do by pledging to be non-violent — meaning they never commit, condone or remain silent about men’s violence against women.
Next to MAVAW were booths belonging to Pro-Choice Michigan and Students for Choice. Both offered information and ways to fight for pro-choice and provided information on abortion and the morning after pill for rape victims — both very controversial options in the state of Michigan and for the nation as a whole. Statistics posted by the NCIPC showed that over 32,000 pregnancies result each year from rape in female victims age 12 to 45 years and that a high number of rape victims contract sexually transmitted diseases.
Pro-Choice Michigan, Students for Choice, Men Against Violence Against Women, Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center and Amnesty International were among the groups attending the event to show support and offer onlookers and activists additional information on issues pertaining to violence against women.