Donning posters stating “One in four is too many” and “Stop rape now,” a crowd of about 200 gathered on the Diag April 12 for the 23rd annual Take Back the Night rally. The event, organized by the Ann Arbor Coalition Against Rape and University Women Against Rape, sought to empower the community to take action against acts of sexual violence.

Paul Wong
Take Back the Night rally organizers listen to local musicians and artists perform original pieces related to sexual assault and the empowerment of women. (JOHN PRATT/Daily)

Ann Arbor resident Katherine Drumright spoke to the crowd as a survivor of sexual assault. Molested at age four, Drumright said she continued on a path of self-destruction including drug and alcohol abuse and depression.

Drumright said she wanted “to talk to someone but didn’t know who to talk to.” After she was clean for nine months, the issues of her sexual abuse surfaced and she felt if she did not get her story out, she would return to drugs.

Drumright said she was afraid to reveal to people what happened to her. She was finally able to deal with her past after meeting with a counselor through the Touchstone Program, a therapeutic support group out of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center which aids female survivors of sexual assault.

Drumright advised friends of victims of sexual assault to encourage victims to seek treatment.

LSA graduate Ben Osborne, a spokesman for Men Against Violence Against Women, also emphasized the need for men to speak out against sexual assault.

“It’s sometimes not culturally acceptable to speak out,” he said. “You can’t remain silent about these things.” Osborne added that he hopes everyone – men and women – can join forces to stop acts of violence.

“It takes a strong man to stand by a strong woman,” he said.

“(Rallies are) effective for women to come together and unite in a way that is very empowering,” said one LSA senior who requested to remain anonymous.

The inclusion of men and women in the audience was encouraging to survivor and social worker Diane Moore.

“I look out at this group and I feel so supported,” she said. She was first sexually assault at age four and said the definition of sexual assault does not need to be specified in order for the form of violence to matter. After suffering through years of sexual violence inflicted by both men and women, Moore said she started to self-destruct by the time she entered college.

Despite her initial reluctance, Moore said she eventually entered the Touchstone Program.

“If you’ve been hurt, it’s not your fault,” Moore added. She emphasized the need for women’s strength regarding these issues.

Moore’s stance corresponded with that of Congresswoman Lynn Rivers (D-Mich.), who stressed the importance of women’s vote. Rivers said voting is a means of affecting the laws and decisions regarding violence against women.

“When women vote, women take back the night,” she said.

About one in four women and one in six men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, according to a statement by the Ann Arbor Coalition Against Rape. Seventy percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim.

“They are pacing themselves a little differently to get more out of it or to pursue some different things that they may not have gotten out of it otherwise,” she said.

For others, whose interests are either too wide or varied to be contained, the University offers a Bachelors of General Studies degree.

Students seeking a BGS degree have to follow different requirements to graduate -they don’t have foreign language or distribution requirements and are required to take more upper-level courses. However, the degree gives students time to explore and allows them to take a wider variety of classes.

Some people choose not to receive a BGS because of it’s supposed bad reputation, but Conway-Perrin said employers don’t look down on students who major in general studies, and some even prefer them.

“Career Planning and Placement has done follow-up studies with employers, and they hire or admit BGS degrees at the same rate as everybody else,” she said, adding that success is more dependent on the student than the employer and how the student describes their situation.

“It’s more like, my interests didn’t fit in with the defined majors, so I went and took the initiative to create my own major” than saying I couldn’t choose a major and slacked off, she said.

Whatever students choose to do, there is always another option available if they change their mind, and Conway-Perrin said students should take their time and realize college is not like high school.

“I guess the other thing that we would stress is the transition issues. Students coming in their first year don’t always realize how different it is,” she said. “A lot of students come in, and they are very bright, but they were used to doing well in high school without having to work very hard.”

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