BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Sexual assault victims are sending a strong message about consent. More than a dozen students spoke about empowerment and healing at Buffalo State College’s Take Back the Night event.
About one out of every four women is sexually assaulted as an undergraduate student, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. About one in every 20 undergraduate men will be assaulted.
Survivors of sexual assault shared their pain but also a message of hope through poetry and song.
“Speak up, don’t sit back, say it, be proud,” said Samantha Gardner, a senior at Buff State. “Embrace it, just show the world you’re not just sitting in a corner crying, you’re strong and you can accomplish anything.”
Gardner was assaulted last year on campus. She recited four poems about her journey since she was attacked.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” she said. “Actually last semester I had a few classes with the person who assaulted me so it’s been a struggle but I’m very happy with where I am.”
She told News 4 more needs to be done on campus and on a federal level to raise awareness about sexual violence.
“It’s really about stating to break down some of these barriers, some of these walls and talk about this monster and how can we, as a community, come together and change this culture,” said Paula Madrigal, assistant director of prevention and health promotion for the Weigel Health Center.
The theme of the event was “Clothing is not consent” because they want to stop the culture of victim blaming.
Speakers explained that only saying “yes” is giving consent and that past consent does not mean current or future consent.
Survivors could also access help at the event.
“It is beyond words how important this is,” said Mahlia Lowell, a victim of many forms of abuse. “With people reaching out and getting that help, you could be saving a life.”
Lowell decided to speak at the event to show victims they are not alone.
“Stay strong no matter what happens,” said Lowell. “No matter how far you feel you’re crashing because of things that are happening to you, know you really truly are not alone.”
There are resources available for victims of sexual and domestic violence.
The Crisis Services’ 24 hour hotline is 834-3131. It connects victims with someone to talk to anonymously. Family members and significant others can also use it for support.
The 24 Hour Erie County Domestic Violence Hotline is 716-862-HELP. If you need shelter, call 716-884-6000.
The 24 Hour NYS Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline is 1-800-942-6906.