Survivors of sexual assault shared their “trauma, tragedy and triumphs” last night at the 15th annual Speak-Out.

Paul Wong
Kalimah Johnson, a poet and activist, closes SAPAC”s Speak-Out ceremony last night.<br><br>LAURIE BRESCOLL/Daily

The Speak-Out, which was hosted by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the Michigan Union, is one of many events designed to recognize October as dating and domestic violence awareness month.

Alicia Rinaldi, SAPAC training and education coordinator said the Speak-Out was important for both survivors of sexual assault and other community members.

“The purpose tonight is twofold,” Rinaldi said. “This is both a forum for survivors to speak out in a safe environment, to be supported and to share their stories and an opportunity for members of our community to bear witness to the trauma, tragedy and triumphs of survivors.”

“Bearing witness is our responsibility as a community because it is the only way for us to understand sexual violence and try to stop it,” Rinaldi said.

Many of the survivors chose to speak in an attempt to help others who are facing the aftermath of sexual assault.

“I have been to two Speak-Outs and to Take Back the Night and I have never spoken. But I just wanted to share tonight because I have drawn strength from so many others who have spoken and I want to offer the same strength,” said Katherine, a rape survivor who wanted to be identified by only her first name.

Many spoke about the difficulty of reporting assault to police. “When I reported my uncle for molesting me, the police acted like it was my fault,” another survivor named Stacey said.

“When I was in court, the first thing the attorney asked me was what I was wearing when it happened,” she said.

Audience members supported each of the speakers by providing a safe place to speak.

“I came tonight to support a friend and I think it is great for people to be able to support themselves. This is all part of the healing process,” said Engineering senior Scott Austin.

The message of the evening for survivors and supporters alike was empowerment.

“Even though it is difficult to talk about sexual assault, this is a tremendous and empowering experience for everyone. The whole event is about social change,” Rinaldi said.

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