Experts speak at Southeast about stopping sexual violence

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Two experts who spoke on preventing sexual violence Tuesday at Southeast Missouri State University told around 40 students in the audience that they don't have to be the one in four who will be sexually assaulted during their college career.

The experts, Kelly Addington and Becca Tieder, who've been trying to bring change to college campuses and throughout communities nationwide, presented the program "Let's Talk About 'IT'" at Glenn Auditorium in Dempster Hall.

The program was sponsored by the campus' VICTORY program in observance of Sexual Violence Awareness Month.

Addington and Tieder expressed how both women and men can be sexually empowered and possess tools to make their community a safer place. The first step, they said, is becoming educated.

Lifelong friends, Addington and Tieder founded Unite for Change in 2006, a global campaign that promotes sexual assault awareness and prevention and healthy sexuality.

Addington and Tieder have been on "Dateline NBC" as experts on sexual assault and the dangers of date rape drugs. They've also appeared on CNN, ABC, Fox and are working on their first book.

In order to relate to the audience, the women relayed their own experiences with sexual violence.

As a senior in college, Addington got pregnant after a sexual encounter she didn't consent to. A man who had come to visit her at college, after possibly drugging Addington at a bar, raped her in her apartment. After months of nightmares about "someone being on top of her" and feeling like she was trapped, Addington realized she was pregnant and confronted the man.

He told her that "technically" the baby could be his but that Addington had initiated the intercourse.

She knew that was untrue, she said, and sought comfort and support in her best friend, Tieder, on what to do.

Although Addington said she didn't want to talk about what happened to her at first, with the help of Tieder, they figured out how they could share their story.

"I remember different parts every time I tell it. It doesn't get easier," Addington said, adding that she continues to tell her story hoping to protect people from having the same experience as she did.

Addington and Tieder advised students to stay educated in order to inform people surrounding them and have resources such as the phone number to the campus counseling center available.

"There's nothing that's more empowering than someone who wants to support a survivor," Tieder said.

In order to be sexually empowered, they asked students to understand the culture they live in and to not give in to stereotypes.

Being a sexually empowered person, they said, isn't a challenge but a way of being respectful of your peers and others in the community. "Respect yourself and honor your intuition," Tieder said. "Don't be afraid to create your own solution."

ehevern@semissourian.com

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