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Campus protest raises sexual assault awareness

staff writer

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 03:02

women protest

Mikayla Kapp photo

The Take Back the Night protest paraded through campus Friday evening to raise awareness of Utah's rape statistics.

Carrying neon-colored signs and calling out chants, Take Back the Night participants marched across the USU campus at 5 p.m. Friday to raise awareness for sexual assault and abuse.

“It’s so neat to learn about what we can do as professionals and students to end violence on campus,” said Kellie Rieben, an event organizer. “To activate students to participate in this event on campus to raise awareness, because these are topics that people don’t want to talk about, they don’t want to discuss. I think it makes people uncomfortable to realize that even Cache Valley, even in Utah, we are facing a lot of the same issues and problems a lot of other schools are facing, that one in four college women will be raped or sexually assaulted just for going to college.”

Take Back the Night was organized by USU’s Center for Women and Gender and Sexual Assault and Abuse Information agents as part of V-Day, a movement to end violence against women and girls.

“You can’t stop it completely if people aren’t aware, so they are basically two sides of the same coin,” said Candi Carter-Olson, a USU journalism and communication professor.

The event began with a march beginning outside the Merrill-Cazier Library and ending in the TSC Access and Diversity Center.

“I was in the library, and I walked out and I saw all these people marching with signs and I followed them because, you know, how can you not follow a large group of people carrying signs and chanting something?” said USU student Taylor Harman. “So you know, I thought it was cool.”

The remainder of the event was a program that hosted a variety of speakers, including personal experiences shared by Leah Adkins.

“I want to thank you for being willing to go out there and raise your voices and stand up,” Adkins said. “Before I was a college student, I was date-raped. I was engaged to him, I said no, and I felt responsible and I was made to feel responsible many years after. You are not responsible. If you say no, no means no. It does not just stop. It does not just stop with date rape.”

Steffen Saffron, a peer educator with SAVVI, talked about the power of advocacy for sexual assault and rape victims.

“I think what we can do is to number one, say I am willing to take a stand,” she said. “I’m willing to try to get help for someone instead of walking away and saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get involved. There might be retaliation or I don’t know what to say.’ Just say, ‘No, I will be someone of advocacy. I will be somebody who will stand up if I hear someone has been sexually assaulted or raped if there is any domestic violence anywhere.’ That can’t be allowed in your book. If we don’t act on it, it will keep on going.”

Dr. Taira Koybaeva, founder and CEO of diversity business group Go Global Fast, LLC, also discussed ways victims can find solace.

“If and when it happens, it is something that can not even be actively described because it is like a diamond inside of you,” Koybaeva said. “The inner development of the heart is a precious thing. Such people become a blessing because only they can understand how another one can feel.”

- katherine.l.larsen@gmail.com 

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