Amplifying VOICE and voices on campus

The Wellness Empowerment Center is home to VOICE and other resources for students. VOICE and its partners are observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month to foster a more supportive and educated community at the Institute. // Photo courtesy of Stanley Leary

Throughout April, VOICE and other campus partners are observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time where survivors of sexual violence (SV) are honored and uplifted. Between Institute-specific initiatives and global observances, SAAM seeks to raise awareness of issues related to SV in college and foster a community that not only supports survivors, but actively works to prevent future incidents and increase campus safety.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), college-age adults are at higher risk of experiencing SV than those in other age groups. Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males have experienced sexual assault or rape nationwide, and Tech is not exempt from these statistics. In the Annual Report for Equity and Compliance Programs (ECP) for the 2022-2023 school year, the Institute recorded 149 incidents of sexual misconduct. Both RAINN and the report note that formal complaints to law enforcement or other authorities are made at a much lower rate, with only 17 of the 149 incidents resulting in a formal complaint during the previous year at the Institute. 

No matter the pathway chosen for reporting, those impacted by incidents of sexual misconduct receive support and resources from the Office of ECP and VOICE. 

“What we do help with really depends on the student and what their needs are,” said Sara Cherry, VOICE Advocate at the Institute. VOICE is a service within the Wellness Empowerment Center that encourages SV prevention, education and survivor support on campus, which Cherry says can take a variety of roles as “every situation is different, everybody’s needs are different.” As a VOICE Advocate, her functions can include accompanying students to receive forensic medical examinations after sexual assault, explaining options for reporting to Title IX or law enforcement and exploring resources for counseling, among other support strategies. 

Other initiatives within the Wellness Empowerment Center focus directly on SV prevention and education, which can take form through presentations to campus groups about topics addressing SV, organizing events to raise awareness of SV and performing outreach to educate students about resources for SV survivors. 

Altogether, Brittany Close, SV Prevention Health Educator, said these programs aim “to create a safer and more supportive campus environment where all members feel respected, valued and empowered to take action against sexual violence.” 

SAAM is one such observance to accomplish these goals, and many events during the month of April allow the student body to learn more about SV prevention and uplift survivors on campus. The first event took place on April 9 and was a breakfast meet and greet with ECP. This was followed by a rock painting event on April 11 by SMILE at Tech to provide messages of support to SV survivors across campus. 

Also occurring on April 11 is Teal Ribbon Day, where students are encouraged to wear a teal ribbon in support of survivors of SV and join a campus-wide photo in front of the Campanile. The following week will host the Take Back the Night event, which can be one of the most impactful of the month. 

“Take Back the Night is an event that we do every year here and that is done internationally to highlight the voices and the experiences of survivors themselves,” Cherry said. “It’s a really unique event in that it’s not just spreading awareness about the issue, it is lifting up the experiences of the people who’ve actually gone through it in order to do a larger call to action to end sexual violence on campus.”

This event has been observed at the Institute for 30 years, and this year’s event will also include a march as a call to action to end SV. Take Back the Night also includes performances from groups at Tech, chants, the reading of survivors’ stories and a candlelight vigil. While Cherry noted this can be an especially heavy program, it allows the Tech community to “[center] survivors themselves and their experiences so that we can not only raise awareness, but that we can honor what they’ve been through.” This year’s event will take place from 7-9 p.m. on April 15 at Harrison Square, or in the Clary Theater of the Bill Moore Student Success Center if it rains. 

The remaining events of SAAM revolve around Denim Day on April 24, where students are encouraged to wear jeans or other denim clothing in support of SV survivors. A craft circle on April 18 organized by the Women’s Resource Center will precede Denim Day itself and allow students to prepare clothing and signs for the event. 

Although these topics may be sensitive for some, Cherry encourages raising awareness about them to ensure community participation in the prevention of SV to make Tech safer for all. For those needing assistance relating to SV, support can be accessed through VOICE 24 hours a day. Find more information at or get support directly at 404-894-9000.