Responses to Survivors

Sexualized violence and rape played a major role in the decision to obtain an abortion for many women. Dr. Mary Koss published a study of thirty five colleges and seven thousand college students in 1985 that attacked the notion that sexual assaults were perpetuated by strangers. She suggested attacks often came from friends or acquaintances (Ms. Magazine). Though the study came out over ten years after feminists started their efforts against sexualized violence, it implies statistics were likely worse in the decades before. The survivors who suffered mental and physical trauma received very little support from the administration. Instead of counseling and efforts to seek justice, colleges instead provided blame and guilt. As the CR groups increased, awareness of the injustices regarding sexualized violence increased. Survivors could get the support they needed, and the groups could collectively work to fight systemic rape.

Feminist students at institutions such as the University of Maryland, University of Pennsylvania, and University of California fought to open rape crisis centers and prevention centers. Advocates attempted to not only force policy changes, but offer proactive and reactive support to survivors. College students worked to “provide advocacy, support services and self-defense workshops” (Ms. Magazine).  University campus environments were often more conducive to learning for activists. The young women already possessed the open frame of mind that was eager to learn, thus they could likely best be trained in “active listening and crisis intervention,” among other important skills for advocacy (Holt 19).

Take Back the Night Rally at University of Wisconsin, 1982. (archives.library.wisc.edu)

As advocacy grew on campuses, events such as “Take Back the Night” were created in the 1970s. “Take Back the Night” marches encouraged “dual education and healing” among advocates and survivors (19). Furthermore, these marches occurred in locations where there were a concentrated number of people ready to march for social change. Collective healing marches and gatherings, in addition to a growing number of sexual assault centers, allowed for a growth in education. “Take Back the Night” is still in effect on many college campuses, which has contributed to changes in policies both on campuses and in the government regarding sexual assault.

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