Editorial 2.22.13: Student awareness of abuse and oppression is valuable

Sexual assault is an all too real nightmare for a staggering number of people, and it is one that many carry in secret. The victims often suffer alone, hiding behind shame, fear or a desire to leave what happened to them in the past.

V-Day, an organization centered on ending violence against women, hosted an international event called One Billion Rising on Valentine’s Day. The campaign called for people to come together to dance, walk and unite against sexual assault and violence against women.

One Billion Rising received its namesake from this sobering statistic–one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. On a global scale, that translates to one billion women worldwide.

Three students, sophomore Jenna Muhs, senior Shelby Sperling and sophomore Tracey Furling brought that movement to campus on Feb. 14. They are the co-directors of Bradley’s V-Day presentation of this year’s “The Vagina Monologues.”

Student turnout in the past for “The Vagina Monologues” has been truly impressive, and while significantly fewer people turned up for the One Billion Rising dance marathon, there is something to be said for students bringing an international event like that to campus.

Despite the small turnout, it shows vigilance and passion from even a few students. The One Billion Rising movement is not just for women, but for anyone who has a woman in their life they care about. It is a campaign for respect, and it is so powerful to see students bringing a cause like that to campus.

Along the same vein, The Tunnel of Oppression, an interactive exhibit designed to highlight the brutality against different groups of people, was hosted this week in the Student Center Ballroom by Multicultural Student Services. That event started at Western Illinois University in 1993 and first came to Bradley in 2005. It has since spread to universities around the nation.

The event took a great deal of time, effort and volunteers to pull off, and the impact for those who attended was significant.

The issues brought to light at both the One Billion Rising event and the Tunnel of Oppression are not comfortable to talk about. They are frequently kept under wraps, too taboo and offensive for everyday discussion. But it’s so important to remind people that for far too many, rape, oppression and violence are a constant part of life. Silence won’t change that, but activism might.

Spreading awareness for any cause, international or otherwise, is an admirable undertaking for any student group, regardless of turnout. The catalyst for these causes is not necessarily a major movement. It can be a handful of people who care enough to take matters into their own hands, and to share the cause with others.

One group can raise awareness. One donation can make a difference. One person can spark a revolution. And when students bring that kind of activism to campus, one billion people can be understood and recognized, if only for a moment.