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Angela Rose "Shatters the Silence"

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Today, Angela Rose is a crusader for victim's rights. As founder of PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment), a multi-chapter, national non-profit, she transverses the country on a mission to shatter the silence that surrounds sexual assault.

But in 1996, she was a 17-year-old working at a retail store in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. While walking to her car one sunny July evening, she was approached from behind by a man who held a knife to her throat and forced her into his car.

 

"He bound my hands behind my back, and put band-aids over my eyes and sunglasses," Angela recalls of the life-changing moment. "I was able to see to the left and right, and I made a conscious decision that if I got out of this alive, he wasn't going to get away with it. I memorized details about his face, car and the route he was taking me."

 

As it turns out, Angela's assailant - who drove her to the woods and sexually assaulted her before driving her back to the mall parking lot - was a repeat sex offender, out on parole for murder. Working with the family of the woman he killed, Julie Angel, along with the other women he had kidnapped and/or sexually assaulted, they started a petition drive that led to the passing of the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act

 

We talked to Angela about her experience with the legal system, her work with survivors and how you can get involved with PAVE.

 

Hear more from Angela on Thursday, April 21, where she'll be appearing as part of the "Story From a New Friend" Series, along with PAVE Ambassadors, including Miss Illinois USA 2010 Ashley Brandarich and 101.9 the Mix's Jennifer Roberts. 6-8pm. Rockit Bar & Grill, 22 West Hubbard Street. Email story@anewfriend.org for more information.

 

What was your experience with the legal system when trying to prosecute your attacker?

It was very difficult and re-traumatizing. The night I was kidnapped, the responding detective accused me of lying. Nothing was done on my case until days later when committed, new detectives were put on this case. They caught him because the computerized sketch of his face looked so accurate that someone recognized him. Then, it took four years for my case to come to trial. All along the journey, there were unexpected bumps, such as one of the judges dropping the most serious charge. After it was appealed, it was unanimously reinstated. Thankfully, I had incredible support from my family and community. At the end of the arduous road to trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to life due to his prior offenses.

PAVE stands for "Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment." What does "victim empowerment" mean?
Sexual assault is not like any other crime - it's a crime not only against your body, but your soul. And we live in a victim blaming society, where many victims feel shame and guilt. Moreover, there are many emotional aftermaths such as trust issues, PTSD, eating disorders, depression, self-mutilation, alcohol/drug abuse and even suicide. PAVE helps people (both women and men) who have been sexually assaulted embark on the journey of healing, from victim, to survivor, to thriver. We do this also by helping to create a world safe for victims who disclose and need to be supported - [for example] we did a piece with "America's Most Wanted" on how to support a sexual assault survivor.

 

Why is sexual violence called a "silent crime"?

Sexual violence is a very silent crime because it's usually someone who you know and trust that commits it. Perhaps it's a babysitter, friend, date, acquaintance or family member. It's very difficult to talk about these crimes, so many people suffer in silence. PAVE has a strong message that there is no shame in being a survivor!

 

Tell us about your work on college campuses.

Twenty-five percent of college women will be victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate within a four-year college period (according to the U.S. Department of Justice). Sexual assault on college campuses is an enormous problem - especially for date and acquaintance rape - due to the issue of alcohol and lack of awareness.

PAVE is working on a national initiative for National Campus Safety Awareness Month in September with Security on Campus to raise awareness and increase advocacy on the issue of college sexual violence and the vast amount of under-reported cases as well as the injustices that many survivors face. The Safe Campus, Strong Voices Campaign will focus on victim empowerment, prevention, bystander intervention and provide tangible tools for both men and women to work together to create a safer campus, raising awareness and engaging to shatter he silence of campus sexual violence.

What have been some of your most important legislative victories?
One of our most important legislative victories was in Wisconsin, where it said in the statutes that if a person was rendered incapacitated by an intoxicant, then it was considered 2nd degree sexual assault - but it specifically said that alcohol was not considered an intoxicant. We fought for this for nearly four years before it was successfully changed to include alcohol on the list of intoxicants.

Erin's Law,
inspired by Erin Merryn (an author, speaker, empowered survivor and PAVE Ambassador), was signed by Gov. Quinn in 2011, and we are working to enact this in other states. Erin's Law teaches children in schools how to get away and tell today.

What are the most common myths about sexual assault today?

Most people think stranger assault is what we need to be wary of - but most commonly it is someone who you know and trust! Also, many people think that sexual assault only happens to women - but there are so many men who are survivors. We need to stop using gendered language. We also need to shift the accountability away from the victim and onto the perpetrator by being mindful of not using victim blaming language.

 

What is "victim blaming"?

Victim blaming is language that either gives excuses or blames the victim for the sexual violence. For example, in court I was asked what I was wearing when I was kidnapped and sexually assaulted. It does not matter what a person wears - there is no excuse for sexual violence.

 

One of your projects has been giving voice to male victims.

Gabe Wright has been involved with PAVE for years - he is an outspoken male survivor who was raped in his early 20s. He created The Guys Project and is working to get survivors and allies to support male survivors. 

For men, they may have a perceived threat to their masculinity or a fear of being thought of as gay if the perpetrator was a male. There is a tremendous lack of service providers for male survivors as well. PAVE has partnered with the filmmakers who created "Boys and Men Healing,"
an inspiring documentary on surviving male sexual abuse. We are encouraging our chapters and affiliates to screen this film in their communities.

 

Tell us about the PAVE walks you're hosting in April and other ways to get involved.

The Chicago-area walk is being held on a trail in Dupage County - they can visit PAVE's website.We hope to get more walkers to help us shatter the silence of sexual violence! Visit our website and click "Join Today" to get added to our action alerts and enewsletters.

 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my work with at-risk youth, including a presentation at the DC Metro Teens AIDS center and the documentary film I produced "Transition to Survivor."  I also am humbled and proud of the many survivors who tell me that PAVE's work has helped them. We must be the voice for all who have been silenced by violence!

 


Some answers have been shortened for clarity.  This interview is part of an interview series for Sexual Assault Awarness Month. Check back on Thursday, April 14 for an interview with Jeanette Castellanos Butt, Director of Sexual Violence and Support Services at YWCA.

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1 Comment

jen_erasing said:

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Cassandra, LOVED this blog post. I don't know if you are aware, but Erasing the Distance is also doing a FREE show as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month called STRONGER THAN SILENCE: surviving our secrets on April 28th, 7pm at Center on Halsted. We have professional actors perform four true stories of sexual assault, and the show is being presented in partnership with Quetzel Center. Please email me at jen@erasingthedistance.org if you'd like more info about it. You can also visit www.erasingthedistance.org. To Angela and everyone else out there, PLEASE keep up your wonderful work.

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