‘Use the Power of Your Voice’: Sexual Assault Awareness Month Begins April 1


By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – Sexual Assault Awareness Month is set to be observed through April, and the Janelle Grum Family Crisis Center of East Texas is encouraging victims and concerned citizens to raise their voice and join the fight to prevent sexual assault.

The center, which services several surrounding counties including Houston County, has planned numerous events to take place in Lufkin and Nacogdoches in honor of the annual observance, the 2018 theme of which is “Use the Power of Your Voice.”

Kicking off the center’s commemoration is Take Back the Night, set to take place in front of the Angelina College Student Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 in Lufkin.

“It’s a public march that kind of serves as a means for men and women to unite and voice their desire to end the fear of going out at night,” explained Stuart Burson, Primary Prevention Coordinator for the Family Crisis Center. “Obviously, sexual assault can happen at any time of the day, but traditionally, young women – and even young men – are taught, ‘Be careful when you go out at night.’

“It just kind of brings home the fact that we shouldn’t be in fear of going out at night,” Burson said of the march.

In association with Angelina County S.A.V.E. (Sexual Assault Violence Education), the center will present a Prevention in the Park event Wednesday, April 4 from noon to 1 p.m. at Louis Bronaugh Park, located at 328-340 Charlton St. in Lufkin.

According to information provided by Family Crisis Center Community Development Director Greta Rich, lunch will be provided free of charge to those who attend. The event will also feature entertainment and presentations from guest speakers.

A second march – called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes – is planned for Thursday, April 19 beginning at 11 a.m. in front of the Angelina College Student Center.

“It’s a way for men to show their support for sexual assault awareness by marching a mile literally in women’s shoes,” explained Burson.

“The Hunting Ground,” an award-winning documentary on the topic of sexual assault which takes place on college campuses, will be screened beginning at 6 p.m. Monday, April 23 in Hudgins Hall at Angelina College.

“That’s a very good documentary movie about how, unfortunately, a lot of sexual assaults on college campuses are swept under the rug,” said Burson. “It’s just some staggering information when you watch that movie.

“Most of the universities they speak with in the movie are, like, Ivy League schools, where you would think it would be even more safe for women, but unfortunately, it’s not,” Burson continued. “That’s a very good film for anybody to watch.”

Rounding out the Lufkin events will be a rape aggression defense (RAD) class at 6 p.m. in the old gymnasium.

“That’s a self-defense class,” Burson explained. “It’s a ladies-only event; men are not allowed.”

The Family Crisis Center is also encouraging widespread participation in National Denim Day, observed each April 25.

“The campaign was triggered by a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned,” said Burson. “The justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, therefore implying consent.”

As a sign of solidarity with the victim, the women employed by the Italian Parliament arrived at work the following day dressed in jeans.

“And if you think about it, it’s ridiculous,” Burson pointed out. “That’s such a ridiculous thing. But it happened.”

The Nacogdoches observances of Sexual Assault Awareness Month will kick off Tuesday, April 3 with Coffee, Croissants and Consent at 8:30 a.m. at the Convention & Visitors Bureau located at 200 E. Main St.

Events are also slated to take place on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University, including a Take Back the Night march scheduled for Thursday, April 5 at 7 p.m.

“That’ll be in front of the Baker Pattillo Student Center,” said Buson. “We’ll also do Walk a Mile on April 10; that’ll be at 6 p.m.

“We think we’ve got some fraternities that are going to participate, so we’re excited about that,” Burson divulged.

Burson also provided information on Share Your Story, a joint project between the Family Crisis Center and the SFA Title IX Office which encourages sexual assault victims to speak up about their experiences.

“They can do it without identifying themselves,” he said. “We have a Google Doc set up where they can go to that and submit their story.”

Quotes from the stories received will then be printed on T-shirts, Burson said.

Survivors interested in sharing their experiences need only to text “my story” to 41411.

“That will automatically take them to that Google Doc,” explained Burson. “There is a place for them to give us their name and email, but that is not a requirement. And we do stress that in the material they fill out.

“We just want to try to put a more personal impact on some sexual assault survivor stories; to just let people know that it happens to people you know,” Burson said. “There’s a lot of people who may be sexual assault victims, you may not know they’re victims.”

Submissions are currently being accepted and are not limited to students of SFA.

“The idea when we did this was to focus on SFA, but we don’t want to restrict,” Burson said. “If somebody wants to share their story – ‘Well, I’m sorry, you have to be a student’ – no, we don’t want to do that. So, anyone can share their story.”

For more information on the aforementioned events, contact Burson at 936-639-1681 or [email protected].

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at [email protected].

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