By Katherine Ayers
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
For one night, Wes Sapp didn’t mind putting on a pair of high heels. He thought it was necessary to take a stand.
The East Carolina University freshman and Chi Phi fraternity pledge member was among the young men donning heels on Monday for a mile walk from College Hill Drive down 10th Street to Joyner Library as part of the Take Back the Night and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes events Monday. The events, sponsored by the campus group Voice for Victims, were designed to raise awareness about sexual assault and rape through peer education.
“We’re in a college community, and women are more susceptible to sexual assault (than men),” Sapp said. “I think it’s appropriate to have this event.”
With shouts of “2-4-6-8; no more date rape” and “Men and women unite to take back the night” reverberating down 10th Street and through campus, a crowd of about 75 students followed the high-heeled group.
“Walk a mile in her shoes is having the guys make a public confirmation that they are on our side and that they understand the significance of sexual assault and their part in it,” Kayla Boyer, Voice for Victims secretary, said.
Men are responsible for first not committing any type of sexual assault themselves but second for speaking up when their friends may be in danger of crossing a line, Boyer said. Take Back the Night is designed specifically for women.
“It’s saying, ‘I’m not going to take this anymore for me or my sisters or my mom or friends,’” Boyer said. “It’s not allowing yourself to be a victim, but also standing up for those around you and not letting them be a victim.”
Some universities hold the two events separately, but Boyer said her group wants people to understand it will take men and women working together to eliminate the crimes of rape and sexual assault.
“If those parts aren’t working hand in hand together, then we’re not going to find success,” she said. “We both have to take a stand.”
Allen Hildebrandt, a leasing agent for the Wilson Acres apartment complex, participated with his friend, sophomore Kaitlyn Hall.
“I wanted to come and show her some support,” he said.
Hall said she got involved with the organization after becoming a sexual assault survivor while she was in high school.
In 2011, the most recent statistics available from campus police, there were 16 forcible sexual offenses, up from seven in 2010. In Pitt County, there were 40 rapes, up from 33 in 2010.
Sixty-five percent of rapes go unreported, and every two minutes a person is sexually assaulted in America, according to literature passed out at the event. Sue Molhan, Voice for Victims group adviser and ECU Campus Police victims advocate, said rape and sexual assault are silent epidemics.
“Students don’t report it because it’s usually an acquaintance (who’s the perpetrator),” she said. People also are not sure sometimes if what happened to them would count as a crime.
That is what happened to Mollie Daniel, an ECU senior and Voice for Victims president. She shared her story to the group during a 10-minute program at the end of the march. During the second weekend of her freshman year, she attended a party with her roommate and some acquaintances. She said she had two drinks made by her roommate’s boyfriend, and the next thing she knew she woke up, naked and groggy, in a stranger’s bed the next morning.
After leaving with her roommate, she said she spent the next week in her dorm room crying and watching television, leaving only for class. After finally talking with her parents and a victim’s advocate on campus, she said she found the courage to report the incident but by then there was no physical evidence of what had happened.
Ebony West and Brittney Melton, both ECU freshmen, said the event raised their awareness about the issue of sexual assault.
“People look at us like we’re fresh meat, and we’re targeted,” West said. “I never walk by myself, I’m always in a pair or a group.”
Melton said she and her friends tend to include male friends in their groups because it makes them feel protected.
“But I’m still guarded,” she said. “They have the same thoughts as any other man, and they could still take advantage of us.”
In the end, Boyer said the group’s main goal with events like these is to be peer educators to others on campus.
“Administration can only say so much,” she said. “Sexual assault is not a gender-specific crime, and it’s going to take everybody to take a stand.”