They gathered to share personal stories about sexual violence.
Students and members of the IU Women’s Student Association met for the annual Take Back the Night event Tuesday night to raise awareness of sexual assault.
The event began at 6 p.m. in Dunn Meadow, and was followed by an opportunity for participants to share their experiences in the Courthouse Square.
Sexual assault has consistently been prevalent when the sun goes down, Marcella Ettinger, president of the IU Women’s Association, said.
“We’re reclaiming that time,” Ettinger said.
Songs by popular female artists played from speakers in Dunn Meadow while participants visited booths for organizations supporting victims of sexual assault.
Guest speakers from Middle Way House, Planned Parenthood and WSA spoke out about the issues.
WSA is a women’s rights advocacy group at IU that tackles a variety of topics affecting women. Ettinger said one of the purposes of Take Back the Night was to reach out to victims of sexual assault and provide support.
“I think that for the longest time it was something that people didn’t want to talk about, and now there is more public awareness and support for survivors,” said Ettinger.
In recent studies, Indiana ranks second in the nation, at 17.3 percent, in average number of girls raped between the ages of 9 and 12 according to a press release. The national average is 10.5 percent.
According to the 2012 Annual Security Report for IU Bloomington, 50 cases of forced sexual offenses on campus were reported to IUPD in 2012.
Guest speaker Stacy Weida, crisis interventions coordinator at Middle Way House, said the number isn’t necessarily representative of all of the victims.
“There certainly are a number of survivors that choose not to report,” Weida said.
Weida said while women are the majority of sexual assault victims, they are more likely to seek help than male victims. In this year’s Annual Security Report for IU Bloomington, the only two IU programs listed for combatting sexual assault, Rape Aggression Defense and IUPD, teach self defense exclusively to women.
“Ultimately, it affects everyone,” said WSA Treasurer Meredith Moon.
WSA’s event helped promote organizations that counsel victims of all genders.
“We really want to show them there are people who care,” Ettinger said.
Still, colleges remain the most rampant sites for sexual assault, with female freshmen as the most affected group, Weida said.
“In particular it’s important to spread awareness on college campuses,” Weida said. “I have met with several IU students on campus already this semester.”
Moon said she felt it was helpful for victims of sexual assault to share their experiences with others.
“I think it really helps to put a face on the issues,” Moon said. “Sexual assault can cause a lot of problems with connecting to people.”
Weida said one of the largest obstacles in battling sexual assault is society’s tendency to blame victims.
“People say things like ‘she shouldn’t have been drinking’, or ‘she shouldn’t have worn that,’” Weida said. “A lot of girls drink, and a lot of girls wear tight skirts.”
She said victim-blaming influences how victims deal with the grief afterward, often causing them to question themselves and feel guilty for being assaulted.
“Even in the strong, educated women survivors that come to us, we almost always see the guilt,” Weida said.
Both Weida and Ettinger said they believe sexual assault can be stopped.
“We can stop it by changing the way people think about sex, power, and their responsibility to each other,” Weida said.
Follow reporter Sarah Zinn on Twitter @sarah_zinn.
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