Event provides support for sexual assault survivors


Kate Vesely, Staff Writer

In 98 seconds, you can sing the Star-Spangled Banner.  In 98 seconds, you can brush your teeth, or you can make awkward small talk with the person next to you in line.

And every 98 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted, according to the Department of Justice, one out of every six women are victims of an attempted or completed rape, and one out of every 33 men are victims of an attempted or completed rape.

Events such as the Take Back the Night March aim to help survivors realize that they are not alone.

Take Back the Night is a march that takes place in April, which is Sexual Violence Awareness Month.

It seeks to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence. Take Back the Night spreads awareness and allows survivors to tell their story and march in unity according to the Take Back the Night website mission statement.

This year, Sarah Mell, the education coordinator at H.O.P.E. Works, has collaborated closely with the Burlington Police Department, UVM and the City of Burlington to organize the march.

“Take Back the Night is a chance to listen to the truths of others, acknowledge the impact of sexual violence and come together to devote ourselves to ending this epidemic,” Mell said.

The first-time Mell attended the event was in 2000.

“The first time I spoke, I was surprised at how empowered, heard, loved and celebrated I felt for speaking my truth, for sharing my story,” Mell said. “It was my once-a-year opportunity for my survivor identity to be the most salient of the many identities I hold and to give it space to be acknowledged and heard.”

Sophomore Sarah Lubic, who is volunteering at the event, has learned a lot from participating this year, she said.

“I was always taught that these are things that aren’t okay to talk about so the biggest lesson that I got from this was that it is okay to talk about it, it’s healthy to talk about it and that there are people who want to listen,” Lubic said.

Sophomore Sarah Smith, who is also volunteering at the event, has found unity in this march, she said.

“I’ve had more friends than I would like to say who have had experiences with sexual assault,” Smith said, “I think everyone has a connection somehow.”

The march is April 26, starting at 5 p.m. at the Royal Tyler Theater, then traveling to the Contois Auditorium in City Hall for story sharing.

“Sexual violence can happen to anyone” Mell said. “The only way we can end this epidemic is to work together to create a culture of consent and joyful sexuality.”

The HOPE WORKS hotline is available to survivors and their loved ones, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year: 802-863-1236.