EDMOND — Two University of Central Oklahoma groups are hosting a week of events to raise awareness about violence against women.
UCO's Women's Outreach Center and the student group Women of Many Ethnic Nationalities are hosting V-Week, a campaign that seeks to end sexual violence and crimes against women.
The event is a part of an international campaign that aims to shine a light on crimes that often go unnoticed and are ignored in certain parts of the world, said Tess Bromme, student coordinator for the Women's Outreach Center.
The centerpiece of the week is a production of “The Vagina Monologues,” an award-winning collection of vignettes based on interviews with women about sexuality.
The play begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Radke Recital Hall. Admission is free, and donations will be collected to benefit the nonprofit Oklahoma Women's Coalition.
Also included is One Billion Rising, an event in which students, faculty and staff are invited to dance and call for an end to violence against women. Those in attendance will be able to sign a pledge saying they oppose violence against women.
The event is designed to be “a gentle call to action,” Bromme said. It's intended to convey a message while remaining approachable, she said.
“It's not fire and brimstone,” Bromme said.
UCO saw two fairly high-profile sexual assaults on campus last year. In the first case, Elvis J. Perkins, 33, was charged with sexual battery in connection with an incident in Murdaugh Hall, a UCO men's dormitory.
In the second case, an 18-year-old woman reported being raped Oct. 21 in Central Plaza, a UCO residence hall. University officials said the woman wasn't a UCO student.
Campus police are seeking a “person of interest” in the case. Four months after the attack, university officials haven't released that person's name, but UCO spokeswoman Adrienne Nobles said the person is a male UCO student.
Such cases aren't unique to UCO. At Oklahoma's two largest universities, reports of forcible sex offenses spiked in 2011, the most recent year for which federal campus crime data is available.
The University of Oklahoma saw the steepest increase, with 16 “forcible sex offenses” reported in 2011 — four times the number from the previous year.
Oklahoma State University had 14 forcible sex offenses reported in 2011, its highest total in at least the last decade.
Records show both schools have 31 reported forcible sex offenses since 2007.
The term “forcible sex offense” is used to describe sexual encounters where one or more of the participants is an unwilling participant, according to crime data published on the universities' websites.
It's important that sexual assault and violence against women are brought to public attention, Bromme said. Raising awareness about the issue reduces the stigma surrounding it, which could make victims more likely to come forward, she said.
“You should stand up for yourself. You should know that this isn't normal,” she said. “The people who do these acts of violence deserve to be brought to justice.”