The Michigan Union ballroom was filled with over 100 people Wednesday evening for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center’s 27th annual Speak Out.

As a part of the event, students who experienced intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault and stalking were invited to speak openly about their experiences.

LSA junior Kathryn Abercrombie and LSA senior Nicole Corrigan — co-coordinators for SAPAC’s Networking, Publicity & Activism Volunteer Program —organized the event. The program leads outreach and raises awareness on campus about sexual assault.

Fifteen individuals, both males and females from undergraduate and graduate schools at the University, shared stories. Many talked about alcohol, parties and date rape drugs as part of their experiences.

Almost immediately after Corrigan and Abercrombie finished introductions, the first survivor walked up to one of many microphones placed throughout the room to speak.

“That’s pretty rare,” Corrigan said. “I’ve never seen that happen before. Normally we actually have to wait in silence for about 15 minutes before someone gets up and speaks.”

The Michigan Daily was asked not to publish specific stories that survivors told because of their sensitive content.

Throughout the event, SAPAC advocates and interns were available inside and outside the room for support and counseling. An advocate is a professional trained to counsel and support victims and can also provide legal support, while interns come from the School of Social Work to provide short-term counseling. Interns can help survivors in reporting their experiences to authorities.

Long-term counseling on campus is usually administrated through Counseling and Psychological Services.

“This can be a really triggering or intense event,” said Alexandria Champagne, a Social Work graduate student and SAPAC intern, “So we feel like it’s very important to have support services in place so people can leave on a safe note, a good note and not leave feeling overwhelmed or extremely triggered.”
Corrigan said she originally got involved in SAPAC after several of her friends experienced sexualized violence in high school.

“Personally, having to experience that through them was very striking and it makes you think about things that you never did before,” Corrigan said.

Corrigan and Abercrombie closed the event with a candle lighting ceremony, inviting anyone in attendance to light a candle in remembrance of those who have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault and stalking. The SAPAC office was open after the event for anyone wishing to debrief.

University staff were asked to refrain from attending the event to guarantee a safe and confidential space, free from mandated reporting regulations. Many staff members are obligated to forward reports of sexual assault to the University’s Office of Institutional Equity.

The Networking, Publicity & Activism Volunteer Program also runs rEVOLUTION: Making Art for Change, an art show with themes of gender, sexualized violence and empowerment during the spring semester, and sponsored a Domestic Violence Awareness Month rally and vigil in October.

SAPAC’s Crisis Line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be reached at (734) 936-3333.

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