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Sexual Assault Awareness Week

The week following Easter break, SAGE (Students Advocating Gender Equality) will begin a campaign to educate the campus about sexual abuse and prevention strategies. This effort will take the form of Sexual Assault Awareness Week (SAAW), which will culminate in a talk by Eastern ’07 alumnus Brisa De Angulo, who holds a Master’s degree in experimental psychology from Towson University (2009) and is currently working towards a law degree at Rutgers University.

De Angulo, known for founding Eastern’s annual summer mission trips to Bolivia, was herself a victim of eighteen months of repeated rape as a child in Bolivia. After suffering in silence for years, she took the case to court, only to face humiliation and failure. As a survivor, she tells her story to help others living in the pain of silence.

De Angulo’s passion for rape victims has led her to co-found CUBE (Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza), a center for child and adolescent victims of sexual abuse, providing free legal, psychological and social support. She has also worked with several Bolivian lawyers to create books explaining the steps one must take to ensure a fair trial, as well as writing Sexual Abuse and the Conspiracy of Silence with UNICEF (United Nations Children Fund). Her more direct activist measures include giving countless workshops to schools, lawyers, judges and doctors explaining how the trauma affects victims.

On Thursday, April 12, at 7:45pm in the Dining Commons, De Angulo will deliver a talk including parts of her story. She will also give an overview of the way this issue is currently playing out in our justice systems, debunk common rape myths, share her own research on the neurological effects of sexual abuse and offer practical tips on how we as individuals and as a campus can prevent and respond to assault. This discussion will be opened by a short performance by the Eastern dance department based on the central theme of De Angulo’s book: breaking the silence.

An additional talk, entitled “A Hope for Healing,” is scheduled to follow on Friday at 12pm in Walton 3. Christopher W. Doriani, a trauma specialist with a Master’s in social work from the University of Chicago, will address the situations of those living in the wake of sexual abuse. From a clinician’s point of view, Doriani will explain the unique recovery process initiated by EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocesssing) treatment. This talk is designed to educate anyone seeking to learn more about the specifics of trauma recovery and will be followed by a time for questions.

When asked why this week is important to her, SAGE member Frances Garrett (senior) said, “After spending time volunteering at CUBE, my eyes were opened to this atrocity that continues to infect our society generation after generation. This week is about gaining the knowledge necessary so that we would not unknowingly perpetuate this cycle.”

For SAGE, this issue is particularly relevant to Eastern as a community of faith. In the words of junior Alea Bechta, “Rape culture has created a damaging perception of sexuality, which

forces situations of sexual abuse to be either ignored, justified or deprecated. And yet we wonder why victims of rape are fearful of seeking help or sharing their story with other victims.

Discussing issues of healthy human sexuality has often been avoided inside the church, so why would we assume that addressing sexual violence would be any easier to talk about? But if people do not feel secure when approaching the church for help, we are clearly doing something wrong.”

While the week of SAAW is about awareness, it is also meant to provide the opportunity for students, faculty and staff to develop a sense of solidarity with those who have been assaulted and, in the words of Garrett, “let them know that we are not okay with it.”

A large poster with an outline of a ribbon will be stationed inside Walton for students to thumbprint in blue. The blue ribbon, an international symbol of support for child victims of sexual abuse, will also be provided as a pin for everyone who attends Thursday’s talk.

Marta De Angulo, sister to Brisa and SAGE vice president here at Eastern, hopes that this time will lead to more initiatives in the future. She notes that successful rape prevention requires ongoing education and, just as importantly, a culture that is open to discussion of the subject.

“The more we talk about this and realize that sexual assault is happening all around us, the better equipped we will be to respond adequately to the victims and prevent further sexual assault,” Marta said. “My dream is to see Eastern University be one day an exemplary leader to other universities with an outstanding campus rape policy.”

For more information about the talks or to learn about how you can get involved with the SAAW activities, contact kdoriani@eastern.edu.

Sources: http://www.abreezeofhope.org/who-we-are.html, http://www.dosomething.org/ds-award-winners/brisa-de-angulo

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