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East Carolina University Sophomore Grace Turner, center, walks with her two best friends J.J. Hughes, left, and Megan DeMarco outside of Mendenhall Student Center. Turner helped organize the Take Back the Night event called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes after being a victim of sexual assault in hopes to inform other victims. Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)

By Jane Dail

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Educating others has long been a passion for one East Carolina University student, though the topics she wants to teach others about would change after surviving a harrowing incident last semester.

Grace Turner, a Raleigh native, is a sophomore at ECU double majoring in English education and religious studies.

She also is survivor of sexual assault.

The sophomore still is healing and wants to use her experience to educate others who have been through what she has or to prevent it from happening to others.

She will be speaking at Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a Take Back the Night event sponsored by her sorority, Gamma Sigma Sigma, the campus’ Office of Victims’ Services and the Greenville Police Department. The event, which starts at 6 p.m. today at the top of College Hill, has a goal of eliminating sexual violence and educating other victims about resources at the university and in the community.

Rosalie Mackiewicz, a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma, said the purpose of the event is personal for her sorority.

“We have some survivors within our sorority,” Mackiewicz said. “It’s giving them a lot of support. … They’re able to work through it.”

Turner’s goal is to have 30 men wearing high heels at the event, and they have been recruiting. She said some family members of survivors will attend and wear high heels.

“The heels they hurt, obviously,” Turner said. “It’s to show what women walk through. … It symbolizes the pain. It brings into light and to show support that there are men that support and are willing to stand up for girls and be advocates for them.”

Turner said she will talk about the healing process, the support she has received and how her experience has affected her.

“My desire is to educate people so they wouldn’t have to go through the things that I went through, because some education could really prevent that as well as create an environment on ECU’s campus that will be supportive for survivors so that they don’t feel isolated or (that) they can’t come forward,” Turner said.

Turner said she wants to help educate others on what constitutes sexual assault and clear up misconceptions.

She said perpetrators of sexual violence often are pictured as strangers, though the majority are acquaintances, dates or even significant others.

Turner said her assailant was an acquaintance, which she finds more frightening.

“That person earned your trust, and that’s something that I find to be pretty scary,” she said.

Turner also said people often blame the victim, especially when alcohol is involved.

She said society teaches women not to get raped rather than teaching men to not rape, which does not make sense if equated to other dangerous behavior, such as drunk driving.

“Suppose if we taught our society, ‘Don’t get hit by a drunk driver,’” she said. “… But if you don’t teach ‘Don’t drink and drive,’ and if you get hit by a drunk driver, it’s your fault. … It’s instilled in us that we have to avoid (sexual assault), and if it happens, we were being careless. That’s how the blaming and the fault and the guilt come to be.”

Turner considers herself blessed after the support she has received from friends, family and law enforcement.

“I was shown a lot of support and told from the very beginning I was being taken seriously,” she said. “But from other stories I have heard, that is not always the case.”

Turner said she still is learning the ways her assault has affected her and still recovering, and she hopes to share her experience.

“I’m proud of how far I’ve come,” she said. “… I’m not afraid to tell people that it happened to me, but it’s not about me.

“I’m doing this event for the people that either haven’t been through it yet and can get an education or the people that are going through it but afraid to talk to someone because they don’t have the support,” Turner said.

 

Contact Jane Dail at jdail@reflector.com or 252-329-9586.

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