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Take Back the Night hosts Sexual Assault Awareness Week

Sexual Assault Awareness Week ran from April 7 to April 10, including several lectures and programs aimed at engaging students throughout the week. Various events took place such as the “Teach-In on Rape Culture” and “Loyola’s Sixth Annual Take Back the Night Rally and March,” which culminated the week’s events. Sexual Assault Awareness Week serves to educate students on topics such as being aware of sexual predators and escaping violent or abusive relationships. To further explain their goals, Kate McGinley, co-president of Take Back The Night, stated that, “Sexual Assault Awareness Week exists to spread awareness about sexual assault and to provide support for survivors. Our culminating rally provides a space for survivors to share their stories and allows them to realize that they are not alone.”

One particularly impressive event was the April 7 lecture “One Love – Our Role in Ending Relationship Violence.” Sharon Love and her partner, Seth, came to speak with Loyola students about relationship violence and the murder of her daughter, Yeardley Love, by an abusive ex-boyfriend. Love shared the emotional story of her daughter’s death and the courage it took to admit that her daughter was in an unhealthy, vicious relationship. Love stressed that relationship violence is not uncommon and may not always be easy to spot but can be obscured, saying, “Abusers are terrifically wonderful in the beginning, but they will gradually try to alienate their partner from others.”

McGinley explained the importance of Loyola students hearing Love’s devastating story, she said, “It is such an important story for every person to hear because it is so tragic. Loyola students will benefit from hearing it because it spreads awareness about dating violence.  If someone’s in a damaging relationship, I hope this talk gives them the strength to end that relationship.” Throughout the lecture, Love provided an array of alarming statistics and facts that proved how prevalent and treacherous dating violence is. Love said, “One in three people are involved in relationship violence for both boys and girls. No one is immune.” Seth added to these daunting statistics, “One in five people will be affected by relationship violence during their time in college.” The numbers are overwhelming, and most importantly, preventable.

As a society, we can work to end relationship violence by recognizing that it is a  problem and bringing it to the attention of others. Love and her team created two iPhone apps called “The Danger Assessment”, (which is an honest scale that will calculate your input and give you a risk factor for how dangerous your relationship is) and the “One Love My Plan.” The My Plan app is a safety decision aid, which gives you a safe exit strategy for a dangerous situation, or a way to make it safer.  Using technology is a great way to reach their target audience of individuals from ages 16 to 24.  Electronic devices have become a huge component of our current culture, and using it positively to educate people is very intelligent and effective. Michael Puma, co-director of Messina, agreed with Love’s idea of the incorporation of technology into preventing relationship violence saying “I think it is very helpful for people to have information at their fingertips. The “One Love” Foundation app allows those experiencing relationship violence or their close friends an opportunity to gather information in a private setting and then to decide what steps are possible to interrupt the violent behavior.”

As a community of college students, we can and should work together to lessen the occurrences of sexual assault and abusive relationships. They are real and should not be looked over or swept under the rug any longer. Each second we spend trying to prevent these encounters can save a life.

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Take Back the Night hosts Sexual Assault Awareness Week