WEB EXCLUSIVE: Students learn about sexual assault prevention

By Becky Reiser

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Sexual violence has got to go!’ ‘ ‘ ‘ Cries from a group of about 25… ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Sexual violence has got to go!’ ‘ ‘ ‘ Cries from a group of about 25 women echoed through the streets of South Oakland on Tuesday night as the Campus Women’s Organization led a march for its annual ‘Take Back the Night’ event. The group promoted awareness of sexual assault and violence against women. ‘ ‘ ‘ The night commenced with a quick introduction from Marc Schutzbank from Pittsburgh’s chapter of Students Take Action Now Against Darfur. Schutzbank spoke about rape as an international problem and told the group that it is used as a war tactic. ‘ ‘ ‘ After Schutzbank finished, the crowd started marching, nearly everyone carrying a sign. Some simply said, ‘Take Back the Night!,’ while others were more straightforward, saying things such as, ‘Real Men Don’t Rape!’ ‘ ‘ ‘ As the temperature fell into the 30s, the group left the Schenley Quad on Fifth Avenue, traveled down Meyran Avenue, through the blocks of student apartments on Bates Street and Louisa Street and then traveled back to the William Pitt Union on Forbes Avenue. ‘ ‘ ‘ Pitt freshman Deanna Troxel said that she saw signs for the event and decided to attend because she has dealt with sexual harassment. Troxel liked the march because it gained people’s attention. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘People were standing outside restaurants, staring at us, but I think we got a positive reaction. I remember one guy who leaned out his window to hear what we were saying. If at least one person heard us, maybe they will change,’ said Troxel. ‘ ‘ ‘ Corinne Gibson, the graduate adviser for the Campus Women’s Organization, said that the march was important to spread awareness, but it was also a place where victims could share their stories about being assaulted. ‘ ‘ ‘ After warming up with hot cider and baked goods, the CWO heard from Pitt police officers about how to protect against assault and rape. Officer Christina Bradley immediately asked who in the group had the Pitt police number memorized. ‘ ‘ ‘ Only a few girls raised their hands. ‘ ‘ ‘ Bradley stressed the importance of knowing the resources available to you, which include the campus police. The number is 412-624-2121 from a cell phone, or just 4-2121 from any campus phone. ‘ ‘ ‘ The officers told the group that sexual assault is the least reported crime, but probably the most common. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘There is more sexual assault at parties. Alcohol is a factor on both sides ‘hellip; but that’s no excuse,’ said Bradley. ‘ ‘ ‘ If you are raped, the officers told the group not to shower afterwards and not to throw the clothes or sheets away because this can be used for evidence. Prosecuting the rapist is easier with evidence than with just ‘he said, she said,’ said Bradley. ‘ ‘ ‘ The police told the Take Back the Night participants to remember that it is never their fault and that women are never asking to be raped. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘What you wear does not matter, [and] what you wear is not an invitation. Wear whatever the hell you want, it’s your right!’ said Bradley. ‘ ‘ ‘ Nina Sivey, the community outreach chair for the CWO, said that Take Back the Night helps people really think about sexual assault and rape, more than just casually. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘People don’t want to think about the ‘what if’ scenarios. I didn’t even know not to shower if I was raped. People need to know these things and be reminded about the issues throughout the year,’ said Sivey. ‘ ‘ ‘ The group also learned that the most important tactic people can use in Oakland to protect themselves is being aware of their surroundings. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I see girls all the time with an iPod in one ear and their phone in the other. I have snuck up to people on purpose [on my bike] because they weren’t paying attention,’ said Bradley. ‘ ‘ ‘ On the other hand, Officer Gwen Lutz said that it’s good to talk on the cell phone when you’re walking alone. ‘ ‘ ‘ Lutz said it is important for girls to walk with someone to implement the buddy system. The best-case scenario would be to call someone to walk with, but if not, then call someone on a cell phone. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘If you are talking to a friend while walking home, tell them where you are,’ said Bradley. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘South Oakland is not well-lighted, and there are a lot of alleyways. Always call Safe Rider or use a Port Authority Bus when traveling home ‘hellip; Don’t assume you’re OK, even with a buddy,’ said Lutz. ‘ ‘ ‘ Bradley said it is also important to know where the blue light emergency phones are on campus and to know your route to class in case you ever have to describe to a dispatcher where you are. ‘ ‘ ‘ After the Pitt police spoke, Pitt counselors Alison Ward and Valerie Weck gave the group information on the services that the counseling center offers. ‘ ‘ ‘ Ward gave the group advice on talking with someone who has been raped but might not want to see a counselor immediately. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘People want to be heard ‘hellip; friends and family can help by just being there,’ she said. ‘ ‘ ‘ At the end of the event the group gathered in a small circle to create a space where people could speak freely about their experiences with rape, assault or harassment. Editor’s Note: Marc Schutzbank is a staff writer for The Pitt News.