By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
A new and federally funded college program designed to spread awareness about sexual assault highlighted Monday evening’s “Take Back the Night” rally at the North Central Texas College (NCTC) Gainesville campus.
Monday’s brief rally coordinated efforts between officials from NCTC and Gainesville’s Abigail’s Arms family crisis center. The two organizations, developers of the new Project REV (Resources for Ending Violence), are proceeding alongside Texas Woman’s University by way of a six-figure grant from the Department of Justice.
Project REV coordinator Amy Mitchell said the program addresses sexual assault, date rape, domestic violence and stalking and has resources available from law enforcement agencies in Cooke and Denton counties.
Through the program, alleged victims of those crimes can speak to specialized counselors and have their incidents investigated if necessary.
“We’re here to be a resource for anyone,” Mitchell said Monday. “We want to make sure every student at NCTC, and every faculty member, has stability and safety.”
The rally’s “Take Back the Night” theme originated in 1975 in Pennsylvania, following the murder of student microbiologist Susan Alexander Speeth. Mitchell said the annual “Night” activism began after Speeth, as victim, received more criticism than her attacker because she had been killed at night while alone in public.
Such criticism, she said, implied that Speeth deserved her murder simply for going out — and victims of sex crimes often suffer the same misunderstanding.
“One of the things we focus on is reporting,” Mitchell said. “But part of reporting is victim blaming.”
The “Night” rally will also be conducted on NCTC campuses in Corinth, Bowie and Graham. During Monday’s installment, Abigail’s Arms official Kelly Fiore-Watson admitted that the NCTC campuses appear generally absent of the crimes her program addresses.
But national statistics, she added, show that one in five young women experience rape while attending college.
“Think about it like this: every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted,” Watson said, explaining that the female victims are between the ages of 16 and 24, and are often prone to fearful silence. “You need to know your rights as a human being.”
Monday’s rally also included comments from retired police officer Ginger Johnson, now an Abigail’s Arms official. She said 80 percent of sexual assault victims in America are women and men under the age of 30 and aren’t always even immediately aware of their trauma, since their attackers hurt them through a haze of alcohol or unsolicited drugs.
“The only thing a person truly owns is their body,” Johnson said. “And one thing that nobody should ever take away from you is your body and what happens to that body.”
The rally later ended with a symbolic march around campus, led by Mitchell.
“Hopefully we can become a community and become an area where a sexual assault victim comes forward and we embrace them,” she told Monday’s crowd. “That’s the goal, and it starts here, and it starts with you.”
For more information, call (940) 498-6429 or visit www.nctc.edu/Student Services/ProjectRe