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Students to ‘speak out’ about sexual assault today

The event, “Speak Out! Against Sexual and Interpersonal Violence,” has been hosted by Project Dinah since 2007. The organization aims to stop sexual assault on campus and in the community and to educate people about sexual violence against women

Emily Siar, senior member of Project Dinah, said she hopes increased awareness on campus will bring more people to the event this year.

“We definitely think it’s been talked about more as a result of the new task force, so we’re hoping that will inspire people to get involved and support survivors,” she said.

The Sexual Assault Task Force began meeting in 2013 to work on creating a better sexual assault policy.

“While its great that the University is working to support survivors better, that’s been the goal of this event for several years,” Siar said. “I don’t really think it’ll change the event because it’s always been about supporting the survivor.”

The “Speak Out” event was launched in 2007 by Project Dinah members, one of whom was Alyson Culin, who now works for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center. Tonight’s event will feature music, spoken-word performances, and an open mic session after the survival testimonials. Participating groups include EROT Poetry, The Rejects, the all-male UNC Achordants and the all-female a capella group Cadence.

Because Cadence is an all-female ensemble, members say Project Dinah’s message rings especially true for their group. While Cadence’s songs at the 2013 event focused on women in power, this year the group is trying to extend hope to survivors through their selections of Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

“I really want them to feel empowered and know their voice is heard if they’ve been through sexual violence,” said Susanna Trotter, music director and head of public relations for Cadence. “I think by just being another voice, the more people that get involved and spread the word, the easier it is for the cause to grow and gain support.”

Because the event can be emotionally difficult for those who have experienced sexual violence, the rape crisis center will provide sponsored companions to talk to anyone who needs support both during and after the event.

“We hope they will leave the event with a different view of survivors than they came in with — seeing them not as victims,” Siar said. “Many have spoken out against these issues and deserve to feel supported and to feel like a part of this community.”

While the event only happens once a year, Speak Out! has a blog that runs year-round, serving as a permanent space for survivors to share their stories and for members of the community to show their support.

“It’s important to recognize that our friends and family members and fellow students are experiencing violence,” Culin said. “It’s also important for students to see that there are resources on campus and in the community that are available to help.”

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