RSVP educates students for Rape Awareness Month

Take Back the Night is an annual march held Sept. 17.
Katie Prince / Graphic Designer

The Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention Center is educating students by dedicating September to rape awareness.

"We want to get people thinking and talking about these events," RSVP staff member Kourtney Mitchell said. "Having an entire month dedicated to our programs or events gives people the knowledge and the resources that they need."

RSVP Coordinator Sharon Giles said they chose September because incoming college-aged women are at the highest risk.

"Freshman and sophomore women are at the highest risk for being sexually assaulted in the first six weeks of class," Giles said.

Mitchell said the most popular event for September is Take Back the Night march and rally.

The international march started in the late 70s, according to the Take Back the Night Web site.

"There was a serial rapist who was attacking women at night on the streets," Mitchell said. "The community response to this was to encourage women to stay inside as a way to keep themselves safe. The women decided, 'No, we're not going to live in fear, we're not going to stay inside, these are our streets. This is our community; we're not going to be frightened.' They went outside, they held a march and said, 'We're taking back the night from assault and from attack.'"

Giles said many Columbia community members attend the march around campus.

"It's women getting together and saying, 'You know what, these are our lives. We own these streets just like anyone else, we walk these streets just like anyone else,'" Giles said. "It's a very empowering kind of event and evening."

Men also share a presence in Take Back the Night.

"Our keynote speakers were from a national organization called Men Stopping Violence. We also worked closely with Scott Clark, one of the coordinators of Greek Life. He got a lot of fraternity men to show up as well," Giles said.

But the events are about more than raising awareness. Giles said one of the moves RSVP is taking is teaching students about bystander intervention.

"(We're) giving them tools on how to intervene when they see potentially dangerous activities occurring in front of them," Giles said.

Most people intuitively can see when there's something wrong but actually taking action isn't what they're used to, Giles said.

Giles said she's excited to hear Kristen's Story for the first time. It's an event hosted by members of the Greek community Sept. 28.

"The story of a mom coming to terms with what happened to her daughter and then using that information to educate other college-aged women, specifically Greek women, I find very powerful," Giles said. "I think people will get a lot of information out of her talk. To take something that I'm sure is the most devastating thing that has ever happened to her, (and) actually turn it around to try to help prevent it happening to other women, you can't get any stronger than that."

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