Oct. 28 Rally Urges Survivors To Reclaim Their Lives
ST. LOUIS — According to national studies, one in four college women will be the victim of sexual assault on campus; and every two-and-a-half minutes, somewhere in America, a sexual assault occurs. Stacy never imagined she would be a statistic. But she is and she will share her powerful and frightening story at a Take Back the Night anti-violence rally, to be held at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28, in the Quad at Maryville University. The event is free and open to the public.
The rally will feature personal testimonies from Stacy and other victims of sexual abuse. Organizers say the rally’s purpose is to increase awareness and encourage other victims to get help. Stacy, a 2007 Maryville University graduate, agreed to be interviewed for this article on the condition that her last name not be used. Over the course of five years, she endured a mix of emotional, physical and sexual abuse from her boyfriend, whom she started dating in high school. “The first year and a half of our relationship was really great,” Stacy said. “It wasn’t until I moved out and into the dorms at Maryville that he started to get controlling and jealous.” She noted her boyfriend was not a Maryville student.
Stacy moved back home with her parents after one semester in the residence halls, mostly to save money, but also to make her boyfriend happy. The struggles did not stop, however, and Stacy ended up breaking up with him. “We went six months without talking but I finally broke down and answered his phone call,” she said. The two got back together and Stacy assumed things were going to get better.
The harassment only got more intense, however. Recalling one of the worst nights she experienced, Stacy said her boyfriend tied her to a chair, put duct tape over her mouth, and began burning her arm with his cigarette. “He got out a gun case and showed it to me,” Stacy said. “He never pulled the gun out, but kept threatening me.” This was all done, Stacy said, because she went out with her friends that night.
All of Stacy’s friends and co-workers knew of her situation. They begged her to tell her parents and the police. Finally, in January 2007, Stacy confessed to her parents what had occurred over the past five years. With their help, Stacy got a restraining order against her boyfriend. “At first, he still tried to contact me and find me, but I changed my cell phone number and moved in with a friend for awhile,” she said. “After a couple more attempts, he finally gave up. I haven’t heard from him since.”
Stacy is passionate about sharing her story and getting involved with women support centers and colleges to help spread the word. “My classmates were shocked to hear that I had been through this experience,” she said. “Girls are able to hide the fact that they are being abused or assaulted, and I hope that by talking at the rally, I can reach some potential victims.”
Though many victims keep quiet, Jennifer Henry, director of personal counseling at Maryville University, says there are many signs to look for if you believe a friend or co-worker might be experiencing some form of abuse. Isolation from friends and family, decreased self-esteem, fear to disobey their partner’s wishes, or any physical injuries could mean abuse is taking place, Henry said. She added that if you suspect that someone you know could be suffering, take it seriously and let them know you are there to listen and offer support. Do not judge them or take sides, and let them know that you are willing to help them seek help when they are ready, Henry continued.
The Take Back the Night rally is being sponsored by Maryville Promoting Women’s Rights (M*PWR), a new student organization. Carrie Ellis-Kalton, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, is the group’s advisor. “I feel a particular passion and dedication to the violence against women,” Ellis-Kalton said. “Every semester that I have been teaching, I have had at least one student reveal to me that they have experienced, or are experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault. It is disturbing and unacceptable.”
With Stacy’s story, and stories from other sexual abuse survivors, Kalton hopes the rally will be successful in promoting community awareness. The rally also will include M*PWR members reading empowering poetry and inspirational passages. The first 50 to attend will receive a free memento and Danielle Carter, Maryville’s director of multicultural programs, will hand out free CDs which contains songs of empowerment by artists including Sheryl Crow. For more information on the rally, contact Ellis-Kalton at 314-529-9688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maryville University is a private institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,422 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers. Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.
– by Emily Mullen, student writer, Marketing and Public Relations