Knoxville (WVLT) – On Thursday, hundreds of women were gathering together to “Take Back The Night.”
It's a yearly event dedicated to raising awareness and educating both the Knox County and UT communities about violence against women and sexual assault.
Knoxville's Safe Haven Crisis Center says one in every four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
A scary statistic backed up when you consider that since opening in 2000, Safe Haven has seen more than 1,100 cases.
"It's a lot bigger problem than what people think," said Holly Fuquay, Safe Haven’s financial coordinator.
Fuquay says rape is not just about sex.
"It's about power and control and it's used as a weapon to degrade and demean the victim," she said.
It's the most unreported crime, but Fuquay says that's slowly starting to change.
"Over the past 30 years, we've seen a gradual decrease in the number of rapes,” she said. “At the same time we've seen an increase in the number of people who are reporting and coming forward."
Going to the police is an important step for someone who typically feels they've lost their dignity.
"More people see that and say hey, it wasn't just me,” she said. "It didn't just happen to me."
Fuquay says women ages 18 to 24 are at the highest risk for being raped, which is where UT Police come into play on campus.
"We offer educational programming that deals with sexual assault, prevention," said Lt. Emily Simerly, a UTPD R.A.D. instructor.
UTPD says the number of sexual assaults on campus has remained steady in recent years and they can't educate students enough.
"Listen to your gut” Lt. Simerly said, “You have a sixth sense, listen to that. A lot of times women or men in situations will know something doesn't particularly seem right."
Safe Haven warns women of all ages to be aware of their surroundings, don't except drinks from strangers, and always have a designated driver.
"If you're with a friend and you see she's about to leave with someone you're not really sure about, step in, be bold and take that move to say, hey, I really think she needs to come home with me,” Fuquay said.
Safe Haven has a message for anyone who thinks they can get away with rape.
"It’s very simple,” Fuquay said, “no means no."
“Take Back the Night” kicked off on UT's campus at 7:00 Thursday night.
You can find out more about Safe Haven and UT’s Sexual Assault programs by clicking on the links below.