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One Billion Rising event supports assault victims at UWRF

Published February 21st, 2014

English Associate Professor Greta Gaard engages the audience in the University Center for the One Billion Rising event on Feb. 14.

English Associate Professor Greta Gaard engages the audience in the University Center for the One Billion Rising event on Feb. 14. The event was held in response to the assault on campus in October. (Kathy M. Helgeson/University Communications)

Last Friday, a different V-Day was recognized at UW-River Falls in awareness of campus sexual assault.

Eve Ensler, the writer behind “The Vagina Monologues,” created V-Day to stop violence again women and girls around the world. According to vday.org, over 5,800 V-Day benefits occurred in 2013. The newest global campaign launched by V-Day is One Billion Rising, which was created after one billion people came together on one day in February 2013 to spread awareness.

At UWRF, Police Officer Patricia Forsberg and English Associate Professor Greta Gaard organized a One Billion Rising event that occurred in the University Center on Feb. 14.

Gaard said that the event was held in response to the assault that occurred October 2013 on Homecoming weekend on Cascade Avenue. A woman was confronted by a group of men but was able to get away and report the incident.

“The numbers that are being reported are not accurately representing the number of assaults,” Gaard said.

Gaard said that many assaults go unreported on college campuses and in college towns because of the prevalence of acquaintance rape.

“We have no relationship to the stranger, but we know very well what the repercussions would be for our acquaintances,” Gaard said.

According to Gaard, women are more likely to put others’ needs before their own and society depends on that trend for women to stay silent about assault, which is why many assaults are not reported.

Forsberg said that, statistically speaking, 35 out of every 1,000 women in college will be a victim of sexual assault each year. She decided to get involved with One Billion Rising because she is a police officer.

“I feel that I have a responsibility as a police officer to be proactive in participating in community-based sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts,” Forsberg said.

Forsberg also got involved with campus sexual assault awareness because of her experience in college.

“I should have been an advocate for my best friend because she was raped at UW-Superior while visiting me. I was not. Instead, I completely excused the perpetrator’s behavior because I considered him a ‘nice guy,’” Forsberg said. “I should not have excused his actions nor should I have negated my best friend’s victimization. A good friend would do better than this.”

Forsberg mentioned surprising statistics collected from a recent report about the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, which was signed into law in 2013. According to the report, an estimated 20-25 percent of women will be the victims of rape or attempted rape on college campuses each year, and 90 percent of these victims will know their attackers.

The One Billion Rising event that occurred Feb. 14 used music and dance to convey the message of awareness to students. Gaard said that microphones are not allowed in the UC because that would signify a rally, which can only happen outside, so she said the people involved had to rely on the music and dance. Gaard said that several people who were not originally involved in the event joined the dance. Gaard said she was proud of those students who stepped forward.

“That, in itself, is what a movement looks like,” Gaard said.

Gaard said she encourages all students to go online and educate themselves about campus sexual assault and Ensler’s work with V-Day, including a recent YouTube video titled “Man Prayer.” “If it’s not you, it could be a friend of yours,” Gaard said.

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