Sexual assault awareness

Women’s Center, PCASA sponser events

The Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”

While not everyone falls victim to sexual assault, according to a 2009 study cited by the Washington Post, approximately 19 percent of college seniors have been violated at some point in their academic career.

More recently, a 2014 MIT survey revealed 17 percent of female undergraduates experienced one or more unwarranted sexual assaults.

Despite the severity of the problem, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), only 32 percent of rape victims report the incident to the police.

That said, according to UIS Campus Crime Statistics, there has been just one incident of a forcible sex offense on campus in the last three years, occurring in 2012 within a dormitory or residential facility.

However, even those proven responsible for sexual assault on college campuses face expulsion in just 30 percent of cases, according to the Huffington Post.

As the statistics show, sexual assault is a real problem throughout the United States, and specifically amongst the college-aged group.

In order to bring attention to the problem, April is officially Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

In the Springfield area, SAAM features two national events including the 9th Annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and Take Back the Night events.

In downtown Springfield, the Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault (PCASA) is organizing the 9th Annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, which occurs on Saturday, April 18.

Quite literally, the event, which begins with registration at 9:30 a.m., asks males to walk a mile while wearing high-heeled shoes to raise public awareness of sexual assault-based crimes.

The walk itself begins at 10:45 a.m. just west of the Illinois Old State Capitol and ends with a rally at the current Illinois State Capitol at 11:15 a.m.

The PCASA states, “It’s not easy walking in these shoes, but it is a fun opportunity for men to educate the community about a very serious subject and rallies the community to take action to prevent sexual assault.”

Since 2008, the PCASA has raised $113,278, and uses the money to help those who have suffered sexual assaults. It also goes toward preventing sexual violence from occurring in the future.

The event is open to anyone, and students receive a discounted rate of $10 to participate. If an individual participant is not a student, the minimum donation amount to take part in the walk is $35.

Participants are encouraged to register beforehand at www.firstgiving.com/pcasa; however, registering the day of the event is also permitted.

Members of the UIS Psychology club will be walking and they are currently raising money for the cause. You can donate money to their team at http://www.firstgiving.com/team/291396.

The second event, Take Back the Night, will take place on Friday, April 24.

This event will feature a candlelight march, with participants encouraged to meet at the UIS Colonnade at 8:30 p.m. All are welcome to take part in this event. The march will end at the SLB gym, where further festivities will take place.

The mission of the Take Back the Night Foundation is to “create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives.”

The foundation further states, “We seek to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence.”

Take Back the Night at UIS receives sponsorship from the Women’s Center, Residence Life, and Sisters with Vision.