Correction appended.

In the dictionary, courage is defined as the strength to persevere and withstand difficulties. 

But Kim Castor defines courage as the nearly 100 survivors of sexual assault who have entered through the doors of the Survivor Advocacy Program in the past year.

“It is never lost on me the courage that they show,” Castor, the director of SAP, said. “And my goal is that every survivor leaves the office feeling believed, supported and no longer alone.”

More than 1,000 people attended the Monument Quilt showing Friday. Ohio University is the first university in the country to display the largest viewing of the quilt. The event took place in Peden Stadium where 2,200 stories of sexual assault were written, painted or sewn into quilt squares and put on display. An ASL interpreter accompanied the speakers as they read their speeches.

Keshawn Mellon, a freshman studying theater, visited the showing as part of his learning community and said the number of quilts laid out was overwhelming.

“We don’t hear these stories in our media, in our news. None of these are reported, a lot of it is pushed aside and hidden,” Mellon said. “Coming here and seeing all this is kinda like ‘Wow, all of this has happened to so many people and we just ignore it,’ and … it’s not right and it’s not fair.”

One in five women and one in 71 men will experience rape at some point in their lives, according to a 2015 release by the National Sexual Violence Resource Violence. On college campuses, the number of sexual assault cases becomes one in five women and one in 16 men. More than 90 percent of sexual assault victims in colleges do not report the assault. 

It took Abbey Knupp five weeks after the attack before she could say that she was sexually assaulted by a person she trusted.

Now, a little more than a year since the assault, Knupp, a senior studying journalism and women, gender and sexuality studies, said some days are better than others and some days the assault lingers at the back of her mind “like a bad taste or a hollow afterthought.” 

But Knupp is determined to help other survivors like her. As the president of Ambassadors to the Survivor Advocacy Program, Knupp encouraged people to support survivors by just being their friend.

“It is not our job to fix survivors. Nothing that we could possibly say will fix the situation they’re in,” she said. “But we have a duty, as people, to stand with survivors and remind them that they’re not alone. We’re never alone.”

More than 51 percent of female victims report being sexually assaulted by an intimate partner and more than 40 percent reported being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance, according to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. For male victims, more than 52 percent report being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance and more than 15 percent reported being sexually assaulted by a stranger. 

When survivors disclose their sexual assault, Sophia Lingrell said they are often questioned on what the setting of the situation was, such as what they were wearing or if they were intoxicated.

“It should be easier for people to come out and talk about it,” Lingrell, a freshman studying nutrition, said. “It shouldn’t be about the situation. It was what it was. There’s no ‘and’ (or) ‘buts’ of what the situation was.”

Sexual violence exists everywhere, M. Geneva Murray, director of the OU Women’s Center, said. But here at OU, the conversation is moving forward. And here, the event attendees and faculty said they’re committed to preventing it from taking place.

“Here together, we’re pushing the conversation forward and my call to you is for it not to be just today,” Murray said. “It is everyday that we need a large scale institutional effort to call out rape culture when we see it ... to change the culture that silences victims.”

The conversations and efforts to stop sexual assault needs to continue in order to create an environment in which all survivors are supported. And it is not just SAP’s job to do so, but it is a job everyone must take part in together, Castor said. 

“To all the survivors here today,” Castor said. “I believe you. I am with you. And you are not alone.”


Correction: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated the number of attendees. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.

Comments powered by Disqus