“We are based on values of equality, fairness and non-violence,” said Coretta Cotton, the assistant director for Victim Services, while kicking off UCF’s annual 1 Billion Rising event.

Organized by University of Central Florida’s Victim Services, the event aims to bring awareness to the global issue of exploitation and assault towards women. Taking place on the Student Union Patio, Cotton’s speech was the first of a series of speeches, spoken word poems, and dance performances,. She began with a statistic.

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“1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault or abuse in their lifetimes.”

This statistic means that over 1 billion women and girls will be directly affected by this issue in their lifetimes.

More than 11 participants from various organizations on campus, service advocates from UCF departments, and domestic violence shelter representatives, banded together to help and support victims breaking their silence.

One Safe House advocate, Michelle, performed a piece of poetry during the event. At the end of the piece, she says that one day she hopes to see women everywhere, “loving their bodies and running the world.”

The event took place on Valentine’s Day, which Cotton described as a happy coincidence.

“The event just happened to be found on the day of, and while it is just a coincidence, what better day to bring awareness than the day of love?”

UCF students couldn’t agree more.

Joanna Gill, a Junior Sociology major at UCF, attended for the same reasons. She described herself as passionate about events like these that highlight issues that are often overlooked.

“No one should feel uncomfortable or unsafe living their life and being who they are.”

Surrounding the event on this day of love were cheerful members of various organizations, offering flowers, candy, and even hugs.

Cotton advises students experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, or any other form of violence to reach out to Victim Services.

“We are here 24/7 for this exact reason. We will answer at 2 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning – whenever you need us, we are there.”

That hotline number is 407-823-1200.

The administration has various connections to help students in need of assistance. They’ve set up partnerships with the police and legal departments, counseling services, domestic shelters, and more. All partners were in attendance today and ready to provide information and resources to anyone that would listen.

To learn more about Victim Services, or to get in touch with Cotton or another victim advocate, follow their social media here, or send them an email at askanadvocate@ucf.edu.

By: Andrew Franklin, Daniel Hyun, Kevin Broadway, Mariah Creech, Kinzie Hicks