As the sun faded, a group of more than two dozen students and community members gathered, candles in hand, to shed light on issues related to sexual assault Tuesday evening.
The annual vigil was held in the fading shadow the bell tower on the St. Andrews University campus to increase awareness about sex acts committed without consent.
“It’s the most under reported crime there is,” said Betty McGee, executive director Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center of Scotland County, a co-sponsor of the event.
The vigil, also sponsored and hosted by the university’s Gender Justice Club, held both symbolic and educational importance, said student leader Colleen Courtney, who prepared a litany of sobering facts which vigil participants took turns reading after lighting their candles.
“To us (including facts) seems pretty important, because a lot of people are just not aware of how prevalent sexual assault is on campuses,” said faculty advisor to the club, Betsy Dendy.
Among the more disconcerting facts cited during the vigil was that 48.8 percent of college women who were victims of attacks that met the definition of rape did not consider what happened to them rape.
That staggering statistic, said Dendy, is the reason that education is so important.
“The simple fact that it’s not just women who are victims is something that most people don’t think about, and that is why we offer these facts,” added Dendy following the vigil, the sixth in the event’s history.
Courtney, a senior, first attended the event during her freshman year, and has seen it grow in the time since.
“I was a little surprised at the size of the gathering we had today, but this shows that we do have a lot of people on campus and in the community who find awareness very important,” said Courtney, adding that the issue is especially close to her heart because she currently has women’s studies and part of her major.
“When we first started we had just a handful, and we have built impressively on that over the years,” said Dendy, who credits the increased participation this year, in part, to social networking.
“For the first time we had a Facebook page this year, and this group proves that Facebook really is the way to reach people.”
Those wishing to speak with someone about sexual assault or domestic violence are encouraged to call the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center of Scotland County at 276-6268.