At-Large Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley is hoping to bring the issues of sexual assault and sexual abuse to the forefront with a day of workshops scheduled Saturday, Jan. 19 at Northeastern University.
"I was frustrated when I saw the issue of rape as a focal point in our presidential election. There was interest in high profile incidents. But that focus seems to always be temporary as long as these issues are on the front burner. What we really need is to end all forms of violence and have a sustainable long-term conversation and outreach," said Pressley, who is herself a survivor of sexual assault and abuse. "I want to talk openly about all types of sexual violence. And all year round, not just during the heat of an election or on the heels of a high profile incident."
The event, entitled "Raise Your Voice: A Day of Empowerment for Girls and Women," will take place all day this Saturday and is free for all Boston residents.
'Day of Empowerment'
The 'Day of Empowerment' programs will be held on Saturday, Jan. 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Northeastern University's Egan Engineering/Science Research Center Raytheon Amphitheater, 120 Forsyth St.
Participants are being offered four workshops:
- A personal safety training and Rape Aggression Defense System teaser for women (the class is normally four weeks);
- A self-defense workshop for mothers and daughters (or adult women and their mentees);
- A workshop designed for survivors;
- A workshop for providers that will explore the complexity of sexual violence in the context of intimate partner relationships and better equip providers with the tools to identify clients in violent relationships and connect them with resources.
Pressley partnered with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, the Boston Police
Department, Casa Myrna, and Girls’ LEAP to create this day.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said 'Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a
quantitative change in our lives,'" Pressley noted. "Martin Luther King Jr. was the standard bearer for non-violence. Like Dr. King, so many of us have witnessed or experienced violence as an evil in our lives, as a barrier to building a beloved community. "I’m challenging people to instead of that long weekend off, to honor Dr. King with a service day on Saturday as a 'day on.'"
President Barack Obama has also declared Saturday, Jan. 19 a National Day of Service in honor of King's legacy of service.
Sexual assault statistics
Boston Area Rape Crisis Center caseworkers met with more than 300 people being treated for sexual assaults in Boston hospitals last year, Pressley said, adding that those treated were not necessarily Boston residents, and that this number doesn’t include Boston residents who were treated outside of the city. The number also does not account for women who were assaulted but not treated at a hospital.
The Boston Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2011 found that 12.6 percent of Boston high school students reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse (15.8 percent of girls and 9.2 percent of boys). Of note, the data is collected every other year, so there is no 2012 data, according to Pressley.
The city councillor also spoke about sexual assault with boys and men as victims in regards to the event.
"While this event is tailored for women and girls, I expect, and welcome, boys and men to attend and to participate in either our survivors workshop or our providers workshop. The BPD Personal Safety workshop may also be beneficial," she said.