By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — After a silent march, stories from survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence were shared during “Take Back the Night” at St. Ambrose University on April 14. The campus Sexual Assault Awareness Team (SAAT) sponsored the evening.
Students gathered in the Rogalski Center where they picked up a battery-lit candle. Participants processed quietly from Rogalski Center to the stairs by the Beehive at Ambrose Hall.
Once there, Anjie Swidergal, residence life coordinator and SAAT advisor, said the event was part of sexual abuse awareness month. This is the fifth year St. Ambrose has held the event which raises awareness about assault and domestic violence against women and men.
Students took turns reading stories written by survivors nationwide. “These are real stories,” Swidergal said.
The stories included one by a 13-year-old girl from Illinois who was raped by her eighth-grade teacher. It took her four years before she told her mom. Another was of a 17-year-old girl who, while on vacation, was held at knife point and raped by two men. She realized it was not her fault and confided to her best friend what happened. The friend took her to the hospital.
A 19-year-old college student in Ohio was forced to have sex by her boyfriend, even though she said no. She went to the police and a trial is underway. “I have to be brave. I have to remember it’s not my fault,” the survivor wrote. A 13-year-old boy was abused for two years by his coach who was a serial pedophile. “Men are not supposed to be victims. There is help out there,” the story said.
After 12 stories were read, Swidergal invited people to share their stories or stories of a friend who was sexually assaulted or abused.
Several current students spoke tearfully about their stories relating to domestic violence and sexual assault. Swidergal thanked those who were brave enough to share their stories and asked those attending to walk together in silence as they headed out.
SAAT at St. Ambrose seeks to raise awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault, offer information to help reduce the number of those affected by sexual assault and to provide support services and referrals to those affected by sexual assault. Students may contact the group regardless of where the assault occurred.