Residents Are Confronting Sexual Abuse Head-on

By: Summer Knowles
By: Summer Knowles

April is sexual assault awareness month and fifth-year UVA fellow Alice Bailey is using her new art exhibit to confront sexual violence in the community. The exhibit, Facing Sexual Assault, is composed of pictures of assault survivors and is aimed at giving a voice to victims of sexual abuse, who are often too embarrassed to tell anyone about their experience.

"It's people's way of breaking their silence as survivors and coming forward and really bringing everything out in the open," said Bailey.

Experts say one in four women and one in eight men in Virginia experience sexual abuse during their lifetime.

"There's no demographic about sexual violence," said Grace Pedalino, the Community Coordinator for the Sexual Assault Resource Agency. "It happens to people of all colors, economic status or gender. There's no one determining factor."

Because it affects the entire community, Bailey and others believe it's extremely important to raise awareness.

"It's just to show that these people are normal people, everyday people, and to raise awareness of the fact that rape is more common than people think and that it happens to normal people, and here they are looking back at you," commented Bailey.

One of the survivors is Sue Herndon, who was involved in an abusive relationship for five years. She says she feels honored to be featured in the exhibit with such strong women.

"I'm here and I'm looking at these photographs and looking at these beautiful, beautiful women, and there I am among them. It's almost like a badge of honor to say hey, I survived this," said Herndon.

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