Students and faculty came together for the sixth year in a row for “Take Back the Night” on Thursday, Oct. 15 in the Sombrilla.

October is domestic and sexual violence awareness month. This event brings attention to domestic and sexual abuse that happens on college campuses across the country.

A graduate student and the program coordinator for the Women’s Studies Institute Raquel Torres wants every victim to be able to break his or her silence and voice his or her story to change how our society views rape and domestic violence.

“We want to break the silence around domestic violence,” Torres stated. “Many people want to hide it and put it away and not talk about it…this (event) is to make members of the San Antonio community acknowledge that it does happen and bring it into the light.”

Dr. Sara Ramirez, an instructor in the women’s studies program, states that between 2011 and 2014, 19 students were sexually assaulted on campus.

Compared to the national average of 1 in 5 students, UTSA’s number of reported assaults is slightly lower.

“Because of the stigma associated with sexual assault and the many thoughts of ‘they won’t believe me’ or ‘did I imagine that?’ many cases go unreported and therefore do not appear in SAPD’s reports,” explains Ramirez. “No student should have to deal with any kind of attack. The assaults, we must remember, are upon not only their physical bodies, but their psyches, too.”

Director of the Women’s Studies Institute, Dr. Sonia Saldivar, knows that the effects sexual and domestic violence can have on a mind and encourages people who have been assaulted to seek professional help.

“Please know that you are not alone,” Saldivar states.

“Speak to a trusted friend or professor; call the Rape Crisis Center. At UTSA, Counseling Services is prepared to assist you, should you need their help.”

One of the issues that creates the stigma surrounding sexual abuse is the idea of “rape culture,” which instructs women to avoid certain activities to prevent being raped.

Rapists and assaulters are not being held entirely responsible for their actions, and instead the onus is placed on women.

Dr. Lapetra Bowman, a professor in the department of philosophy and classics, said this is the reason many women do not voice their stories.

“Survivors… often face excruciating interrogations regarding their own behavior, regarding what they were wearing or not wearing, what they were drinking or smoking, what texts might have been exchanged between them and the rapist, etc.,” explains Bowman.

“We need to teach people about boundaries, presence of consent and revocation of consent, and the fact that a rapist is solely responsible for his -or her- behavior.”

UTSA student Alexis Rodriguez, a sexual abuse survivor, praised the event and hopes people will continue to get involved.

“I think it’s very moving and empowering…for people who haven’t maybe come out with their experience with their sexual assault,” stated Rodriguez. “Rallies like these show you that there are people who have never experienced this that are willing to stand up and defend you… it’s good for not only awareness but the healing process.”

English department professor Dr. Jackie Cuevas relays how the presence of weapons on campus may affect sexual abuse.

“In Texas, 50 percent of domestic murders of women have occurred with a firearm, and universities that have implemented this open carry law have seen an increase of sexual and domestic violence cases,” explains Cuevas. “I would hope that students would go against guns to try and reduce the cases of sexual assault and domestic abuse on college campuses.”

Student Adrian Farruggia, who identifies as a feminist, came out to the rally to call on men to have a louder voice on this issue.

“Male involvement is very critical because it is very important to support the whole idea of equality… and the more males that get involved, the more this problem will come to light,” Farruggia stated.

“It’s important for us to spread the word that being a feminist isn’t negative, but it is something that can change the world so there isn’t a gap between males and females in society.”

There are many services available on and off campus to help survivors recover from assault.

For example, Diego Dominguez Mancha, a representative from The Rape Crisis Center in San Antonio, explained that the center provides counseling and a 24-hour hotline (210-349-7273).

“We go to the hospital with the victim to help them with whatever they need and we give classes to teach people ‘this is what assault looks like,’ and what constitutes as consent,” Mancha said.

Dr. Bowman reminds victims that they have many places they can go for assistance .

“In addition to providing a safe space for victims of sexual abuse, the Women’s Studies Institute provides access to various resources, both on campus and off campus, so that survivors may begin the journey toward healing.”

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