WMU News

Series of events slated for Sexual Assault Awareness Week

March 25, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- A communitywide Take Back the Night rally and march for women, children and men will conclude Western Michigan University's observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, which runs from March 31 through April 4.

The rally will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, in Room 208 of the University's Bernhard Center. Several WMU students will perform during the event, including Kate Nadolski of Midland, Mich., and Kristyn Hemingway of Saginaw, Mich., who will sing and play guitar, and Marissa Mendrygal of Libertyville, Ill., and Rhonda McQueary of Portage, Ind., who will do dramatic readings of poems and true stories.

Following the rally, those in attendance will march together across campus to the Goldsworth Valley Pond, where they will form a circle, light candles and observe a moment of silence in memory of those who have experienced sexual assault or domestic abuse.

The candle-lit circle will serve as a safe place for individuals to speak out about how they have been personally affected by abuse, rape or other forms of violence.

The Take Back the Night rally and march are being organized by WMU's office of Women's Resources and Services in conjunction with members of two student organizations, Voices Against Violence and Western's Organization for Women.

There also will be three other major public activities taking place on campus during Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

Observance of the week will kick off with a student-organized rally and "shout out" from noon to 4 p.m. Monday, March 31, at the Fine Arts Plaza between Miller Auditorium and the Dalton Center. Those attending this outdoor event will be invited to take a pledge to be part of the solution to end sexual and domestic violence. Participates will be given a ribbon to wear and may sign a large banner that reads "Decide to End Sexual Violence 2003." Several of these banners, emblazoned with hundreds of signatures, will be on display during the Take Back the Night rally.

An interactive educational program on "How You Can Help Stop Violence Against Women" will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, in Room 205 of the Bernhard Center. This dialogue and discussion is especially for men and will be facilitated by two members of the Kalamazoo-based organization, Men to Men.

Student volunteers will be selling T-shirts designed especially for this year's Sexual Assault Awareness Week as a fund-raiser for WMU's Women's Resources and Services to support future activities dealing with sexual assault and domestic violence. The T-shirts will be available at the Fine Arts Plaza rally, the Take Back the Night rally, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, April 2 and 3, at tables in the Bernhard Center's Bronco Mall.

The first U.S. observance of Take Back the Night, which originated in England, took place in San Francisco in 1978. Linda Lumley, coordinator of WMU's Women's Resources and Services, notes that the event initially involved a march by women only through the streets at night.

"The words 'take back the night' were meant as a protest and rallying cry against women's vulnerability to violence when outside and alone at night," Lumley says.

"But research demonstrates that women are much more likely to be raped, abused or assaulted by someone they know rather than by a stranger and that this violence usually occurs in their own home or the home of their abuser."

Although Take Back the Night events continue to be the most popular way of commemorating national Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April), she adds that these events are more frequently being opened up to men.

"Contrary to the original and long-standing exclusion of men from participating in Take Back the Night, we welcome and encourage men to join in all of the events we're holding this week," Lumley says.

"Not only are men victims of sexual and domestic violence themselves, but also, many men are deeply affected by violence against women when their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters are victimized. And men who stand in solidarity with women on this issue can play a critical role in helping end violence against women."

For more information, contact Linda Lumley at (269) 387-2995 or <linda.lumley@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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