Rape. Molestation. Sexual assault.
These words are read every day in newspapers and heard frequently on television. Women’s Awareness Month not only aims to inform the public about the statistics, it also supports and tributes those who have been through one of these traumatic experiences and informs women on how to prevent such events.
Women’s Awareness Month (WAM) began initially as Women’s Awareness Week in 1997. It was founded by Jennifer Orr, the president of Tech’s Women Student Union during the time.
With the intention of educating the public about women’s issues, Women’s Awareness Month brings female role models to talk about their experiences and advocates discussion about current women issues.
“Sometimes campus isn’t aware of what happens to our students, and I think it’s important to have events like this to address sensitive topics and being awareness about sexual violence,” said Nicole Thomas, fourth-year PUBP and WAM co-chair.
Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted. About 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of attempted or perpetrated rape during their lifetime.
During a women’s college career, around 20-25% of women are sexually assaulted. The Georgia Tech Department of Health Promotion conducted a study in 2005 of Tech students to determine statistics specific to Tech.
The results suggested that 14% of Tech women are impacted by sexual assault. Twenty percent of women experience stalking and 6% of the surveyed women were victimized while at Tech.
In addition, men were surveyed and it was found that 16% of men were perpetrators based on the way they answered questions. Of those 16%, 9.5% were sexually aggressive and 8.6% were physically aggressive. Despite the large numbers, sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes. Sixty percent of all sexual assault cases still go unreported.
WAM events are directed toward Tech men and women to encourage victims to seek out help and not remain silent.
One of the most moving events that occurs annually, Take Back the Night, took place at the Campanile on March 4th. This event is a candlelight ceremony that not only brings awareness about sexual violence and methods of self-defense, but supports and honors women who have been assaulted.
During this event, women and men came forth to tell their stories about sexual violence. In addition, information about resources at the Women’s Resource Center and Tech Police Department were presented. The night ended with a performance by the GIFTED Gospel Choir and a reception.
“Although I’ve never been sexually assaulted, sexual violence does not only harm a women’s body, it impacts the soul. Events such as these are important so it can help prevent perpetrators from harming a Georgia Tech woman, “ said Sahitya Jampana, second-year CMPE.
Another event WAM will be holding includes the Red Dress Fashion Show March 11 as part of American’s Heart Association. Women will wear red dresses to help spread awareness about women’s cardiac issues and heart disease, the number one cause of death for women in the United States.
The Vagina Monologues will also be showing at the Student Center Theatre on March 29 to inform the audience about certain women’s life experiences which include sexual violence, health and sexuality.
As an Obie award winning play written by Eve Ensler, the show will produce an exciting set of monologues about all sorts of issues such as rape, menstruation, love, etc. Other events this month include the Women’s Organizational Social, Women’s Day of Service, and the Graduate Women’s Lunch.
The Department of Health Promotion advises Tech students to travel in large numbers in order to prevent sexual assault.
In addition, about one-third of women who were sexually assaulted said their attacker was under the influence of alcohol. Therefore it is important to be wise and responsible when consuming alcohol. Furthermore, the Women’s Resource Center has a Confidential Reporting Form that is used to help track what is happening on campus in regards to sexual violence.
Anyone who experiences violence can go to Housing, the Women’s Clinic, Stamps Health Services, the Dean of Students’ Office, Health Promotion and the Women’s Resource Center to have them complete the form.
Women’s Awareness Month sponsors include the Women’s Resource Center, Society of Women Engineers, the Athletic Association, the Alumni Association and the Auxiliary Services. For more information about WAM or any of WAM’s events, visit www.womenscenter.gatech.edu.