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AWS sponsors awareness week

By Joanna Stone

This week is Sexual Assault Prevention Week at MIT. And in an effort to make the MIT student body more aware of the issue of sexual assault and the necessity for its prevention, the Association for Women Students (AWS) is sponsoring a series of events.

"We feel it's important to bring the issue of sexual assault out into the forefront and to provide an outlet through which women can feel less vulnerable," said Michelle L. Bush '91, a member of AWS and co-coordinator of this week's events.

The first event, to be held tonight, is a self-defense workshop for women. The workshop will be led by Kay Canavino, a member of the Boston Area Women's Self Defense Collective.

Canavino will discuss psychological as well as physical methods of defense. The workshop is being held on the third floor of the Student Center at 7 pm.

Tomorrow night there will be a "Take Back the Night" rally and march. The rally is scheduled to begin at 6 pm at the Student Center. AWS member Alexa D. Ogna '91, who is in charge of this particular event, anticipates that the rally will consist of a diverse group of individuals.

According to Ogna, the scheduled speakers include a woman who will relay her own personal experience with sexual assault, several women who will read poetry, one who will perform a skit and men who will be speaking to express their support.

Ogna said she is hoping for

a turnout of approximately 100 people for the rally. That is about triple the turn out at last year's event.

After the rally, there will be a march to Harvard Square. The march is intended to be a women's march. Men who wish to show their support are invited to participate in a discussion group to be held at the Student Center.

The discussion will be sponsored by Men to End Sexual Assault (MESA), a project of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Fred Pelka, a member of MESA who is co-coordinating the event, said he believes it is necessary for women and men to separate for the "Take Back the Night" event.

"Unfortunately, we live in a world where women have to be concerned about all men since all men could be potential rapists. We're meeting to discuss how we as men can assume a supportive role in the prevention of such violence," Pelka said.

According to Bush, the first "Take Back the Night" march was held in the 1970s to protest violence against women and assert the right of women to walk the streets without fear. The march's focus has traditionally been on the empowerment of women, and men's support of that empowerment, so that women can begin to "take back the night."

It is exactly this history that makes it essential that the march be a women's march, said Rebecca D. Kaplan '92, a member of AWS.

"The message traditionally given to women is that their best way to deal with sexual assault is to stay at home," Kaplan said. "Even official MIT documents urge women not to go out at night alone."

Kaplan said the idea has always been that women are only safe out at night if they are out with men. "We're simply saying that women have the right to be safe even if they're without men," she explained.

Harvard University women have been invited to join the march as it heads down Massachusetts Ave. to Harvard Square.

The final AWS-sponsored event this week is a movie, made at MIT, about sexual assault on

the MIT campus. Titled "One in Four," the film deals with attitudes about rape and consists of a series of interviews with MIT students who have been rape victims.

"There are other campuses which have such films, but the feeling was, that since none dealt specifically with MIT, that it doesn't happen here," said Sasha K. Wood '93, one of the students responsible for making the film.

A discussion is scheduled to follow the film.

AWS sponsored a similar series of sexual assault prevention events last year. This year, however, AWS tried to get a wider array of campus groups involved.

"This year we've tried to get all members of the MIT campus involved. We've talked to the sororities about the events, are hoping for fraternity involvement. We may even have [an MIT Pro-Life] speaker at the rally. We feel that this is important enough for people to cross party lines for," Bush said.