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Event addresses sexual assault issues, empowers survivors to speak out

Monday, March 24, 2014
Event addresses sexual assault issues, empowers survivors to speak out

By Eric Reikowski, Public Information Specialist

The Clothesline Project will be on display during the Take Back the Night event on Thursday, March 27, kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 
As part of a nationwide effort to eliminate violence and sexual assault, Oakland University will host a Take Back the Night event from noon – 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 27 in the Oakland Center Gold Rooms.

Event Details

Presented in partnership with HAVEN of Oakland County and Turning Point in Macomb County, the event will raise awareness of sexual assault issues and offer support to survivors of domestic violence and sex-related crimes. The gathering also helps kick off national Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

“Take Back the Night is a powerful experience for many who attend, whether or not they are a survivor of sexual assault,” said Grace Wojcik, coordinator of OU’s Gender and Sexuality Center.

 “It is said that roughly one in four women will be the victim of sexual assault at some point during their academic career. Take Back the Night gives us the opportunity to address these issues and empower survivors to speak out. There are so many myths surrounding sexual assault and each of them contributes in their own way to sexual assault being one of the most underreported crimes.”

To shed light on these issues, the event will feature a Clothesline Project display and a Silent Witness exhibit. The Clothesline Project addresses the issue of violence against women by encouraging survivors to express their emotions through decorating a shirt. The shirts are displayed as a testimony in the effort to end sexual violence and abuse. Shirts and supplies will be provided for survivors who wish to share their experiences during the event.

The Silent Witness program is an international initiative to raise awareness of domestic violence and connect individuals with anti-violence programs. The program seeks to honor women who have died as a result of domestic violence by displaying life-size wooden figures, each representing the story of a woman killed by domestic violence. The figures for OU’s Silent Witness exhibit will be provided by Turning Point, a domestic violence and sexual assault shelter in Macomb County.

HAVEN, a nonprofit committed to eliminating domestic and sexual abuse, will present a screening of “Tough Guise 2,” at 1:30 p.m., to be followed by a discussion on masculinity in American culture. Released last fall, the film explores connections between long-held ideals of masculinity and violent behavior.

Additional Programs at OU

Along with Take Back the Night, the OU community has a variety of programs and partnerships that address issues of sexual assault. The School of Nursing recently formed a Violence Prevention Task Force, which includes leaders from the Center for Student Activities, Dean of Students Office, Gender and Sexuality Center, Oakland University Police Department and Graham Health Center. The group works with HAVEN to raise awareness through initiatives such as Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), a training seminar for student leaders across Oakland's campus. Organizers see the program as a valuable resource with potential to impact countless lives. 

“The MVP program teaches students leadership skills that can help to end gender-based violence,” said Kelly Berishaj, special instructor of Nursing. “If even one student learns to safely and effectively intervene in a potentially negative situation, and someone else witnesses this and also has the courage to intervene on behalf of someone else, imagine the ripple effect this could have on the health and safety of our community.”

In addition, several faculty members in the School of Nursing are trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and have partnered with HAVEN to assist victims of sexual assault. Plans are also underway to offer a Forensic Nursing program to train other nurses in the community to address issues of violence. The Oakland University Police Department regularly sponsors Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes that teach women how to protect themselves against sexual assault.

To learn more about the Violence Prevention Taskforce or the Forensic Nursing program, contact Berishaj at (248) 364-8750 or For information on other programs, events and support resources, contact the Gender & Sexuality Center at (248) 370-4333 or