‘Get Loud!’ takes aim at sexual assault, domestic violence

Cheers normally reverberate through Wiregrass Ranch High School’s gymnasium when a boys basketball player on the home team scores.

That didn’t happen though during the initial minutes of the varsity team’s Jan. 30 game against Sunlake High School.

Instead, spectators remained silent, in response to signs being shown to them that said “Shhh” and “Be Quiet.”

Lots of people wore purple to a special event staged during the Jan. 30 basketball game between Wiregrass Ranch and Sunlake high schools. The goal was to raise awareness about the problems of power-based violence, including domestic violence and sexual assault. (B.C. Manion)

The crowd kept quiet until the ninth point was scored and then —responding to signs that said “Break the Silence” — spectators roared.

Obviously, there was a lot more going on than just a routine basketball game.

In fact, a full-fledged public awareness campaign was being staged, too.

Wiregrass Ranch High School’s basketball game was the venue for “Get Loud!”

The event was presented by the high school, in Wesley Chapel, in conjunction with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and Sunrise of Pasco County Inc. Domestic and Sexual Violence Center. It also was supported through a Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation Community Heroes grant.

Staying silent for nine points was intended to call attention to the fact that every 9 seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten.

Besides making people more aware of the problem, the event aims to spread the message that it’s time to break the silence about these forms of violence, which are sometimes deadly.

Wiregrass Ranch senior Gabby Azzolina led the efforts to bring the event to her school. She said people don’t realize the extent of the problem, and survivors don’t know where to turn for help.

“So many people don’t know there are facilities to help and numbers to call,” Azzolina said. “I want them to know that it’s OK to get loud about it, and break the silence. The Crisis Center’s number is 2-1-1.”

Mathematics teacher Amy Munroe helped Azzolina to organize the event at Wiregrass Ranch.

Munroe said she was happy to help when she was asked. She hopes that more people will begin talking about the problem, as a result of the event.

“Just to be able to talk about it, is a big deal,” Munroe said.

Buttons at the ‘Get Loud!’ event helped spread the message of the problems of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Dottie Urbanek Nash, director of education and prevention for Sunrise, said these kinds of events are important.

“Awareness campaigns like this are wonderful. They do a lot to get the word out about what’s happening, locally. Unfortunately, we tend to think that domestic violence doesn’t happen here,” she said.

It’s also important for people to know there are ways to help prevent these types of violence, she said.

The Wiregrass Ranch event evolved out of a conversation between Gabby’s mom, Madeline Azzolina, and Denise Cassedy, whose daughter, Katie, initiated the first “Get Loud!” event at Robinson High School two years ago.

After Katie graduated, her sister, Carolina, got involved, and now — Robinson, Plant and Hillsborough high schools in Tampa have “Get Loud!” events.

Wiregrass Ranch intends to make this an annual event, Munroe said.

Some sobering statistics

  • One of every three women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within her lifetime. The same is true for one in every four men.
  • One in five women has been sexually assaulted.
  • One in seven women has been stalked. The same is true for one in 18 men.
  • Nearly two-thirds of all sexual assaults are not reported to the police.

Source: The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Do you need help? Call 2-1-1

Published February 7, 2018

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