Annual Take Back the Night Rally puts spotlight on sexual assault

Thursday, April 24, 2014 10:07 PM
Last updated Friday, April 25, 2014 1:43 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts

As Cynthia Zamot turned into the main entrance of Georgia Regents University, she saw hundreds of T-shirts lining both sides of Walker Street.

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Participants at the Take Back the Night Rally write T-shirt messages against sexual assault.   DOUG STUTSMAN/STAFF
Participants at the Take Back the Night Rally write T-shirt messages against sexual assault.

Each shirt had a message, many of which left the 49-year-old sexual assault victim feeling “overwhelmed with emotion.”

“It was like I wrote them,” she said. “It’s incredible to know that people feel the same pain I felt – and still feel – after all these years.”

Zamot was among victims in attendance Thursday for the 18th annual Take Back the Night Rally. The area resident says she was assaulted throughout her childhood, starting at 4 and ending around 17.

“This is my first time attending Take Back the Night, but it’s already made an impact on me,” she said. “It’s so important to encourage people to speak out because that wasn’t an option for me growing up in the (1970s) and ’80s. Back then, children were supposed to be seen, not heard.”

According to Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United Sates have been raped.

Nearly 80 percent of female victims experienced their first rape by the age of 25, while one-quarter of male victims experienced their first rape at 10 or younger. The Justice Department estimates that fewer than 5 percent of attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials.

“Sexual assault is an act of violence that is intended to control or humiliate,” says Anne Ealick Henry, the director of Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services.

“As the most under-reported of all crimes, it is more widespread than most people recognize. Rape and sexual violence are often labeled crimes of silence because of low reporting rates and social discomfort with their public discussion.”

The Take Back the Night Rally started in Augusta in 1996 on the campus of Augusta State University. Nearly two decades later, the event’s attendance has grown.

“It’s amazing to see how much this event has grown over the years,” area crisis specialist Charlotte Murton said. “I started coming in 1998 when it was only for Augusta State students. Now we’ve collaborated to have students from Paine College, MCG, GRU and East Georgia. In terms of student involvement, this rally has come such a long way.”

Henry added: “Take Back the Night offers an opportunity for the community to state it will not tolerate these crimes or let them go silently into the night. The partnerships and collaborations with area universities are vital to the presentation of this event, as sexual assault is a common occurrence on college campuses.”

GRU President Ricardo Aziz addressed the audience at Thursday’s rally.

“This event means a tremendous amount,” Aziz said. “Being a women’s health specialist, I understand the importance of making sexual abuse crimes a priority. It’s important to recognize how often these crimes go unreported, and we have to do our best to make victims feel comfortable and willing to come forward.”

“The whole idea behind this night is to get people to feel comfortable speaking out,” Columbia County investigator Brian Jones said. “In today’s culture, especially in the music industry, it often seems acceptable to treat women as objects. That’s simply not OK. As a culture, we need to get away from that type of thinking and this rally does a great job of getting that message across.”

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corgimom 04/25/14 - 09:25 am
Nobody likes to talk about

Nobody likes to talk about deeply traumatic experiences. The trauma of rape is equivalent to a soldier on a battlefield, and lasts a lifetime.

And nobody expects soldiers to talk about their traumatic experiences, either.

If you want victims to come forward, change the laws. The rape conviction rate in the area is virtually non-existent.

AutumnLeaves 04/25/14 - 09:54 am
The most important thing is

The most important thing is not to objectify other people as sexual objects and not to consider yourselves as sexual objects. Teach children through exemplifying moral behavior, be discerning about the music you listen to, the media you watch, the books you read. Respect yourself, your spouse, respect your children, teach them to respect you and others and they will learn self-respect because this is what you are modeling. If you model a life of cheating on your spouse, for example, they will not respect you, and have more difficulty respecting themselves. Children learn by what you do much more than by what you instruct. Since rape is very difficult to prove and going through the court system is almost as traumatic as being raped all over again, we must do everything we can to teach our children ways to recognize as many situations that might be dangerous. If it does happen (no matter what the genders are involved), you must report it, so it won't happen to someone else, too.

corgimom 04/25/14 - 08:10 pm
Sorry, AL, I disagree. It's

Sorry, AL, I disagree. It's not about "respect" or lack of it.

It's about a rapist's need for power and control and their twisted view of their victims. It has to do with degradation, with manipulation, with force.

It has very little to do with sex.

And there is no way to teach somebody to recognize dangerous situations, because rape is everywhere, including people's own residences. The harsh truth is that no place is safe. People have been raped at schools, churches, museums, stores- it's everywhere.

People like to think that they can "control" it, that if they avoid certain situations that it won't happen. That's not true, a whole lot of it is just being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.

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