The University of West Georgia will continue to advocate and promote sexual assault awareness and prevention on campus during April, the National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).
According to Re’Nesha Weston, health educator at UWG, the Take Back the Night march and rally on March 7 was one of the largest programs organized by the university to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence. This was UWG’s third Take Back the Night event in which students marched across campus and rallied at the Campus Center to hear from sexual assault survivors and peers.
“There were several departments of Student Affairs and counselors and patient advocates present at Take Back the Night rally, where we provided resources and information on prevention of sexual assault and violence,” said Weston.
As part of promoting awareness on sexual violence and educating students on victim response and bystander intervention, UWG Health Services will have tables outside the library and other locations each week throughout the month. The tables will provide information on campus resources available to students in the event of an assault.
The history of SAAM dates back to the late 1970s when women in England walked the streets at nights, protesting violence they had encountered. These protests were known as Take Back the Night marches, which gradually spread across the world.
In 1978, San Francisco and New York City held the first Take Back the Night events in the United States. With more and more advocates voicing concerns and violence against men as well, the U.S. declared and observed SAAM in April 2001. Since then, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center has led the conversation and promotes the event across the country.
The “Protect Our Pack” campaign, launched in March 2015, has become the slogan through which UWG promotes awareness of sexual and domestic violence.
“There has been an increase in the knowledge level among students following the launch of ‘Protect Our Pack’ campaign and other rigorous awareness-raising events,” said Weston. “Knowing these things happen more often than we care to admit and, unlike the creepy men in the bushes, that it is familiar faces that become the perpetrator, helps prevent ourselves and others from becoming the victim.”
According to the UWG Police’s annual report, the number of forcible sex offenses and rape peaked in 2013 compared to 2012 and 2014, where numbers remained relatively low.
“The evaluation and assessment tools we utilize show an attitude change pertaining to sexual assault,” continued Weston. “People are becoming more aware of what it is, how it really happens and ways to prevent it. Learning the resources available on campus also helps.”