Shattering the silence
Sexual assault survivor Angela Rose shares her experience to reduce sexual violence on campuses
At age 17, Angela Rose was kidnapped at knifepoint and sexually assaulted by a repeat sex offender.
Rose was walking to her car when a man on parole for rape, kidnap and murder, grabbed her and pushed her into his car. She said she was “completely powerless.”
After Rose was released by her attacker, “she suffered at the hands of the authorities, who subjected her to the scrutiny of blame and additional victimization,” according to Aaron Maracle, the assistant director of Sub-Board I, Inc. (SBI) Health Education, who introduced Rose.
On Thursday, Rose, a sexual assault survivor and founder and executive director of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE), shared the story of her attack and the aftermath as a part of UB’s 26th annual Take Back the Night. In her presentation, “Shattering the Silence of Sexual Violence,” Rose spoke to an audience of around 175 to educate attendants on how to respond to these dangerous situations and how everyone can help the cause.
Rose also appeared on Saturday’s episode of “48 Hours” on CBS and talked about her previous attack.
Rose said she had to tell the same story over and over to different officers, many whom did not believe her. Officers preceded to ask her questions about if she was in an abusive relationship or if her boyfriend beat her.
“That’s when the nightmare begins,” Rose said.
Rose founded PAVE from her experience with sexual violence. After noticing there were no groups on campus at University of Wisconsin-Madison that supported sexual assault awareness, she decided to create her own organization.
PAVE currently has more than 50 college chapters and affiliates. They are also working with “Carry that Weight,” a cause “to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence, advocate for better campus policies and challenge rape culture,” according to its website.
College students, more specifically women between the age of 16 and 25, are most at risk for sexual assault and that is why Rose is so passionate about working with and speaking to college students, she said.
But most college students aren’t aware of the statistics of sexual violence, according to Jane Fischer, director of SBI Health Education.
One in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18, according to Fischer. In college, around 20 percent of women will experience sexual assault. It is also estimated that as many as nine out of 10 victims know their offender, she said.
“I was at that age when it happened to me,” Rose said. “I was 17. I was about to be a freshman in college.”
She said colleges are a great launch point for student activism and students can make a large difference in the world.
There is three important things college students can do “to create and cultivate safer and more healthy campuses,” Rose said in her presentation.
Her first advice revolves around the notion of bystander intervention.
“If you see something, say something to raise awareness of rape culture and consent,” she said.
The most impactful thing Rose said during the presentation, according to Venecia Williams, a junior nursing and social sciences interdisciplinary major, was “it only takes one person to stop whatever is going on and it only takes one person to make an impact on the entire society.”
Williams has a daughter who will be starting college next year, who she describes as “sheltered.”
“It makes you think as a mother,” she said. “My daughter should have been here to really get the effect of what she said.”
Rose also talked about how there is no shame in being a survivor. She said there are things we can’t control, but we can control our responses.
Rose said people should work on removing the victim-blaming language from our culture, which was something she had to deal with following her attack. Many people she knew asked her would why she didn’t try to get away or how she could have let it happened.
The responding officers asked her what she wearing during the attack. During the presentation, Rose said she was wearing a pantsuit, but it shouldn’t matter if she was wearing that or a red miniskirt.
The third way Rose said college students can change stigmas around rape is if individuals know what to say or do if a victim discloses his or her attack. She said it’s important for people to believe anybody who says he or she has been sexually assaulted and to reassure the person it wasn’t his or her fault.
Rose had one close girl friend at the time and after Rose had been kidnapped, her best friend stopped talking to her. She said her friend didn’t know what to say or how to react so she chose to not say anything at all.
“You want to make sure that you just be a listening ear,” Rose said. “That’s all I wanted when my best friend just shut me out of her life. I just wanted somebody to talk to.”
Rose also suggested recommending local resources to the victims.
UB offers resources for students involved with sexual violence through Wellness Education Services and Student Health Services. Students can utilize the counseling services and clinics the university provides.
Cameron Balon, a domestic violence and sexual assault case manager from Crisis Services Advocate Program, works with victims and found everything Rose said about the challenges these victims face when it comes to reporting incidents to be “100 percent accurate.”
“I had never heard her story before and I loved her message to especially college campuses,” Balon said.
Balon said Rose’s presentation was a great way to educate college students about consent and Title IX, which protects students from sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
This is the 12th Take Back the Night that Balon has attended at UB. She went when she was a student at Buffalo State and continues as a representative of Crisis Services.
Rose said the world is in a completely different place than it was when she was in college in terms of handling sexual assault. White House representatives are now speaking about the subject, Congress is creating policies to hold schools accountable and more survivors in Hollywood, college campuses and citizens in general are coming forward with their stories, she said.
“I’ve waited for this moment in our nation’s history for years,” Rose said.
Rose said sexual assault is a “tough issue,” but college students can transform this into a movement, not only nationally, but right here on campus.