“Shatter the Silence. Stop the Violence.”
Guest Columnist: Anjani Amladi
3rd Year Medical Student The Commonwealth Medical College
Last Spring, while walking down Monroe Avenue in Scranton surrounded by women, men, and children in a sea of royal purple, I had an experience I never had before. I was invited to an event called “Take Back the Night,” hosted by the Take Back the Night Foundation, and at the time had no real grasp on what the night had in store for me. Based on my friend’s description of the event, I anticipated a small get together promoting sexual assault and domestic violence awareness. But I was surprised to be involved in an amped up rally, an inspirational program, and a new outlook on life. As a result, I plan to be an active participant for the “Take Back the Night 2014” on April 24.
At the beginning of the march, I trailed at the tail end of the line observing what was happening around me. With our sheer numbers we managed to stop traffic, draw incredible amounts of attention to ourselves, and dared to hold up signs that brought awareness to a topic that most people try to forget exists. As we walked, I noticed children halting their games and staring, parents coming out of their homes to figure out what the fuss was about, and a group of college guys ceasing their drinking activities to watch the participants. At that moment in time, a number of thoughts were percolating in my mind. I was proud to be a part of this group who so ardently advocates for all people, not just women… but I’m ashamed to say that along with pride I was also a little embarrassed. What are people thinking about us? What will they say? How are we being viewed? Are they upset at the disturbance? When I walked past a house with six men sitting on the porch drinking beers, I immediately looked at my shoes hoping they wouldn’t notice me. After addressing the discomfort I was experiencing, I pondered the possibilities as to why I was so uneasy, and after conducting research for this article I began to understand why others might be too.
The Numbers are Staggering
According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), one of the largest anti-sexual violence organizations in the nation, one in six women in the United States has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape. This translates into 17.7 million American women who are survivors of such a tragedy. While women make up a disproportionate number of survivors, approximately one in thirty-three men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime which translates into approximately 2.78 million men in the United States. 15% of sexual assault and rape survivors are children under twelve years of age and 90% of them know their attacker. Even more staggering are the small number of rapes that are actually reported, and the proportion of perpetrators that serve time in jail for their crimes. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the United States Justice Department from 2006 to 2010, approximately 46 out of 100 sexual assaults were reported to the authorities (this means that the perpetrators who committed the other 54 acts will not spend a single day in jail.) Furthermore of the 46 that are reported, 12 arrests are made, 9 will subsequently be prosecuted, and only 5 will receive a felony conviction. To be put candidly, if 100 rapes took place only 3 of those perpetrators would spend time behind bars.
Why do the Statistics Matter?
The World Health Organization states that there are significant adverse health effects, both short and long term in survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence. These include back pain, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, gynecological problems, sexually transmitted infections, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, drug and alcohol misuse, and suicide attempts. By raising awareness, and creating an environment where the reporting of crimes, and prosecution offenders becomes the social norm, we can play an important role in decreasing the number of these life altering crimes.
What is the “Take Back the Night Foundation?”
An organization that “seeks to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence,” with an emphasis on creating “safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives.” The first documented “Take Back the Night” event in the United States took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1975 after the brutal murder of Susan Alexander Speeth, a microbiologist who was stabbed to death by a stranger near her home while walking the streets alone. The first “International Take Back the Night” event took place at The International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in Brussels, Belgium in 1976. The turnout was incredible and more than 2,000 women, representing 40 countries, were in attendance.
The inspirational program of “Take Back the Night” gave me hope despite the sharing of numerous tragic and painful stories. The camaraderie, sensitivity and receptiveness of all the participants left me with overwhelming feelings of strength and perseverance. The women and men who shared their stories were the most courageous people I have ever met, and I can only imagine how much gumption and strength it took to tell their stories to complete strangers. As we lit candles in honor of all individuals who have experienced unspeakable tragedies, the people in the crowd who started off strangers to me, now felt like friends.
After writing this article I now understand why as a society, we don’t like to think about these events due to the heaviness of the subject matter. But the lesson to be learned is that by ignoring the existence of these issues, we become part of the problem, when we should be part of the solution. As much as we would like to deny that rape, assault, abuse and neglect happen in our own back yard, sticking our heads in the sand is not the answer. When someone works up the courage to share their story, and our response as an audience is discomfort, that feeling is something to acknowledge, not ignore. Discomfort means we are not indifferent and we recognize that a wrong was committed. And as such, we bring it into our conscious mind where we can enact change. It is time to bring awareness to a topic that lives in the shadows, shine a light on it, and shatter the silence once and for all!
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PARTICIPATE OR WANT MORE INFORMATON REGARDING NEPA “TAKE BACK THE NIGHT” ON THURSDAY APRIL 24th VISIT:
National Child Abuse Hotline http://www.childhelp.org/ 1-800-4-A-CHILD
National Domestic Violence Hotline http://www.thehotline.org/ 1-800-799-SAFE
National Sexual Assault Hotline http://www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline/ 1-800-656-HOPE National Sexual Violence Resource Center http://www.nsvrc.org/ 1-877-739-3895
See Sally Kick Ass: A Woman’s Guide to Personal Safety Vogt, Fred Outskirts Press, 2006 ISBN-10: 159800820X ISBN-13: 978-1598008203
Guest Columnist: Anjani Amladi is a 3rd year medical student at The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC). She was raised in San Ramon, CA and earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences at The University of California at Davis. She has a special interest in alternative medicine, wellness and preventive care. Her goal is to secure a Psychiatry residency with the hope of researching alternative therapies for psychiatric disorders.
Anjani has a passion for people, and was so inspired by her experience with Take Back the Night that she decided to write this article in honor of all those who have been affected by violence and sexual assault. It is her hope to support those who have had the courage to share their stories and give a voice to those who have not.
Read “Health & Exercise Forum” – Every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune. This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor of Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.