DASAS hosts Take Back the Night at SMC

Published 10:20 am Friday, April 19, 2019

DOWAGIAC — Standing in front of a group of Southwestern Michigan College students Wednesday evening, Director of Advocacy Services Deborah Hackworth asked the group if they knew anyone that had been sexually assaulted.

Nearly every hand in the room shot up, some attached to athletes, others to art students and communications students and even SMC staff members.

“That is what I thought,” Hackworth said, counting the hands in the air. “I would say that is 90 percent. … As much as we would like to stick our heads in the sand and pretend this isn’t happening, it is. As much, as parents, we would like to send you to college and have sexual assault not be a part of your reality, it is.”

DASAS hosted a Take Back the Night rally Wednesday on SMC’s campus. The event, one of several the organization hosted in April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, was meant to raise awareness about the problem of sexual assault on college campuses and to provide students with support and resources should they or someone they know have been sexually assaulted, according to DASAS officials.

Starting in Florida in the 1970s, Take Back the Night has grown to become a national rally to address and make people aware of the problem of sexual assault in the United States. Though numbers may vary based on reporting source, one in six American women and one in 33 American men have been victims of attempted or completed rape, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

These numbers increase for college-aged women, who from the ages of 18 to 24 are three times as likely to experience sexual assault. According to a 2015 report from the Association of American Universities, 11.2 percent of all college students experience some form of rape or sexual assault.

Because of these statistics, DASAS officials said they felt the need to reach out to college students about the problem.

“We are so grateful to SMC for letting us host this event,” Hackworth said. “Sexual assault is prevalent on college campuses, and we want to raise awareness about sexual assault not only on college campuses but everywhere.”

Director of Campus Security and Conduct Lyndon Parrish spoke at the event and said that SMC gives options to students who report sexual violence

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for any sort of violence and for sexual discrimination,” he said. “If something happens to you, please let us know. We will do our best to help you.”

For the students who attended the Take Back the Night Rally Wednesday, it was an important event as they have seen sexual assault be a problem on campus.

“[Sexual assault] is happening every single day,” said 19-year-old resident advisor Shelbey Guarino. “It may not be as big a problem here as it is at a larger university, but it does happen, whether you want to see it or not.”

“I think it is important to be an ally,” added 20-year-old Michelle Stevens, a fellow RA. “We want to be able to show someone [who has been sexually assault] where they can go and what they can do.”

Through the Take Back the Night event, Hackworth and other DASAS officials said they hoped they were able to arm SMC students with that information.

“You are not alone,” she said addressing the students. “There are people here to help you. You do not have to deal with this alone.”