Making the PACT and Taking Back the Night
On Tuesday, April 8, Rowan University students, faculty, professional staff and administrators took an unequivocal stand against sexual offenders and gave voice and support to their victims.
Research shows that as many as one in five college age women becomes a victim of sexual assault and, in January, President Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls released a report calling for action to end the attacks.
But Rowan, which takes part in the annual Take Back the Night program which is held on campuses nationwide and aimed at halting the violence, not only took part this year but amplified its message with an unveiling of student films intended to thwart the epidemic of assault.
Leading four other universities from Connecticut to California in a project dubbed PACT5, students produced films that will be used at orientation, in dormitories, in classrooms and elsewhere to not only educate others about sexual assault but to get them to make a pact to prevent it.
Professor Ned Eckhardt in the Department of Radio, Television and Film, along with Department Chair Keith Brand, secured a $200,000 grant to fund the film project and Dr. Ali Houshmand was the first university president among the five schools involved to personally make the pact against sexual violence.
Rowan R/T/F students wrote, produced, directed and starred in three of the 10 films and students from Framingham State University in Massachusetts, California State University: Northridge, Northern Illinois University and Western State Colorado University made the other seven.
Katya Palsi, a 2013 alumna featured in one of the Rowan documentaries, “Katalyst,” spoke at both a morning press briefing to announce the PACT5 project and during Rowan’s Take Back the Night event that evening.
Palsi, a victim of sexual assault at 15, believes a combination of factors has led to the high rate of attacks on and off campuses, not the least of which is messaging in mainstream media. Those messages come from a wide variety of sources, from TV and movies to advertising, she said.
“The problem with a lot of these shows and ads is they glorify it,” Palsi said.
Taking back the night
The University’s annual Take Back the Night program, reported live by NBC10 in Philadelphia, drew hundreds of Rowan students to the patio behind the Chamberlain Student Center where they colored white t-shirts with messages of hope, defiance and survival.
Michael Able, a senior music composition major from Millville, said several members of his family have been victims of sexual predators including himself, his sisters, his mother, his aunts and his grandmother.
“It’s not just women who have the right to say no,” Able said. “Anyone can say no if they don’t feel comfortable.”
Penny McPherson, associate dean of academic enrichment and director of EOF/MAP whose duties include the investigation of allegations of sexual assault, noted that assailants do not always realize the lift-altering damage they inflict.
That said, she urged all students to be vigilant with their own safety and that of their family and friends.
“Everyone has five friends,” she said. “The victim may not be you but it could be one of your friends.”