On Thursday, April 7, from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Clarke University’s campus hosted Dubuque’s second annual Take Back the Night, an event “where those silenced by sexual violence are given a voice.” Allies, friends and families are given the opportunity to show support to their victims. This event is locally hosted in collaboration by three local colleges: Loras College, Clarke University and University of Dubuque, along with the Riverview Center. This year over 100 were in attendance.
During this annual tri-college event, which rotates location every year, participants and organizers share personal experiences, participate in skits and learn more about the statistics of sexual assault. Counselors from the Riverview Center were present as well to provide support and knowledge to the attendees. In the introduction to the event, OVE+R (Overcoming Violence and Empowering Positive (+) Relationships) had the opportunity to discuss the mission of their organization and its role on Loras’ campus since its creation six years ago. They also shared information about the effect of sexual assault on both men and women in our society and how the organization reaches out to the wider Dubuque community. The Loras organization works with students from both UD and Clarke to spread awareness about the issue throughout the whole of the city community in addition to its college campuses.
In the Loras community specifically, OVE+R holds a variety of events throughout the year to educate and spread awareness about sexual assault on college campuses. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and multiple events have already been held such as Project Clothesline, Operation Beautiful, healthy relationship talks, movie showings and the upcoming Denim Day. The goal in raising awareness is to create an open conversation among students and the wider community in order to educate and end stigmas surrounding the issue.
Denim Day will take place on April 27 this year. This is an event where students are encouraged to wear jeans to commemorate women across the world who are blamed for their own sexual assaults because of how they dress. The event originated in Italy where a girl was sexually assaulted and then blamed by a judge for her own assault. The judge claimed that her jeans were so tight that she must have helped her assailant remove them. Those who wear jeans on Denim Day pay one dollar and wear a sticker on their jeans in order to support the cause.
“Anyone can help prevent cases of sexual assault by being a vigilant member of their community,” Elise Amo, OVE+R’s vice president, said.
OVE+R also shared the following advice to students about how to step in and take action. If someone is trying to take someone home when one or both parties is intoxicated, then you can step in and try to divert the person’s attention elsewhere. Another way could be to spread the word about the culture surrounding sexual assault. People are not always aware of the things they say that promote this negative culture. For example, if someone says, “He or she deserved it. They were asking for it,” then step in and say, “Hey, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted. There is a reason why people are taking this problem more seriously. This victim blaming needs to stop.” Just by explaining to others the implications they are making from this event does not help change the culture we have created.
Amanda Scepurek, one of the OVE+R Officers, with the help of the Riverview Center is starting a sexual assault support group for survivors of sexual assault. The group is open to all survivors, men and women alike, and is completely anonymous. Only those attending will know the location and time of the meetings. If anyone wants more information, contact Amanda at Amanda.Scepurek@loras.edu.