San Francisco Women Against Rape held their 12th annual walk on April 8 at the Women’s Building to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence against women.
According to SFWAR, one in four women and one in 11 men will be raped once in their lifetime and only 20 percent are reported to the police.
“We really think it is important to have everyone involved, at the same time, we have to recognize that there are some communities more impacted by sexual assault,” Janelle White said.
White is a lecturer in Women’s Gender Studies at SF State and the executive director for SFWAR. White has been involved with the organization for over 12 years.
“Our aim with this walk is to get everybody involved,” she said. “So that includes women, children, men, people of different races, ethnic backgrounds, class backgrounds, because sadly sexual assault impacts all of us.”
The event was 20-year-old Mika Olaguer’s first walk, which she attended to witness the solidarity among the women, men and children who participated.
“I think everyone should be involved in this walk – not just women, because the more people that come here the more outside people will feel inclined to join this cause and march together and hopefully spread awareness through that too,” Olaguer said.
The event included new supporters and veteran supporters like White. Although White did not participate in the walk, she was heavily involved in the production of the event. White has worked at SFWAR as the program director and executive director since the ‘90s.
SFWAR has been active for over 40 years and provides a range of services to survivors such as hotline support, counseling, support groups, medical advocacy, rape exams and forensic evidence collections.
“We feel it is equally important to have education and organizing in communities, so we provide a very strong prevention education program,” White said. “We want to end rape so it’s important that we provide the services for the norms and attitudes that contribute to sexual assault to change.”
“I think it’s supposed to bring solidarity and unite all women because we all come from different walks of life,” Olaguer said. “I think having a unifying event like this shows how strong we are as people. I think it’s also supposed to inspire change for the future too.”
Olaguer believes that it takes watching other activists participate to really give the public the push they need to participate in such important events.
“I think because it is such a big event it will inspire people, seeing something positive like this will trigger some people to make a change and do something different,” Olaguer said.
SFWAR already raised $50,000 prior to the walk. The money raised will be donated to “San Francisco’s only community-based crisis center” and to “create community shared experiences of sexual violence so as to not isolate further the experience,” according to SFWAR.