Event Raises Awareness about Sexual Assault

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email

HARRISONBURG, Va.---Students and neighbors learned about sexual assault through music, poetry and speakers at James Madison University.

Take Back the Night aims to create awareness about sexual assault in the community.

Filmmaker and author Angela Shelton was the guest speaker at the event. Her speech focused on her experience of abuse and ways to move on.

"I was a victim of child sexual abuse from the age of 3 to 8 by my biological dad," said Shelton.

According to Shelton, abuse leaves bruises that are tough to heal.

"Child sexual abuse affects you in all sorts of ways. I had physical pain and mental anguish for years and years," said Shelton.

However, she said it is not impossible to heal after this traumatic event. She said therapies range from dancing to playing harp.

"I don't think you need to sit and talk therapy for the rest of your life and you can find a healing technique and move on," said Shelton.

To heal, she said it's also important to hear from other survivors.

"We all have a story and I believe instead of staying in it that you heal from it and move on and that those of it like myself who have healed when we tell our story , it helps someone else," said Shelton.

Dylan Rutter who attended the event said it's important to be aware that it does happen.

"I think is starting that conversation and making people feel more comfortable about talking about it," said Rutter.

Liz Howley who works for Student Wellness and Outreach at JMU said discussing the issue could make survivors open up.

"The more we talk about it and are open about it, the more comfortable survivors feel and they know they're not alone," said Howley.

Shelton said breaking the silence can have an impact in someone else's life.

"Once you as a survivor heal, you break the cycle for the next generation," said Shelton. "So that somebody in this audience may come from an abusive family and they decide to heal and move and then they break the chain of abuse that has continued in their lives forever."

The event wrapped up with victims of abuse sharing their own stories followed by a candlelight vigil march.

On April 7, students will also walk to empower survivors of sexual assault, abuse and rape.

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