Awareness weeks are important.

Even though it may seem like they happen often, these weeks shine a spotlight on a social problem and gives people a chance to educate each other about it.

If it wasn’t for weeks like Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, most of us might never think about the pain that this violence causes, leaving those dealing with the pain to suffer alone. This week puts the social disease of domestic and sexual violence to the forefront of people’s minds and forces them to acknowledge a reality of the world and stand in solidarity with their sisters and brothers who have been holding in their experiences with this type of violence.

When I took the time to read some of the shirts hanging in the Schrock Plaza, I was struck by the experiences that people described. It was disheartening to think about how many women and men had been assaulted by people they trusted. It is more likely the familiar face that will do this harm rather than the scary looking stranger.

According to a study conducted in 2007 by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in six American women has survived an attempted or completed rape. Another fact, from the National Crime Victimization Survey from 2005, was that 73% of rape victims know their assailant.

I can’t imagine the pain that survivors of abuse and violence must overcome and the struggle they must face to trust others again. The T-shirts on the plaza aren’t just a physical reminder of their experiences, but are also symbols of the survivors’ resilience. Despite their demeaning experience with domestic or sexual violence, they have found the strength to speak up. They found enough trust in other people and themselves to write their pain for everyone to read.

Their honesty gives me a glimpse into the suffering abuse caused them and makes me want to understand how to end the violence.