News Column

New concert event looks to right wrongs of rape

June 20, 2014

By Andrew Gaug, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.



June 20--June 21 marks a day organizer and activist Michelle Jones has been waiting months for and also the anniversary of a day that's changed her life.

On June 21, 2011, a man sexually assaulted Jones after a night of heavy drinking. The incident threw her into a swirl of trauma, confusion and anger with few resources to deal with it all.

"The night I went to the hospital, the hospital asked if I wanted an advocate, and I didn't know what an advocate was at the time," she says.

"I look back and I'm honestly surprised I said 'yes' because I was so embarrassed."

Jones doesn't want another rape victim to feel that way. In order to address it, she knows it will take an inviting event, full of music and fun.

Rock Against Rape will be held starting at 5 p.m.June 21 at O'Malley's in Weston, Mo., with music and representatives from the St. Joseph YWCA and a women's empowerment group aimed at ending sexual assault on hand.

Making up the music lineup will be acoustic singer-songwriter Amanda Hughey and hard rock bands What I've Become and Striving for Cairo.

Getting those bands, or getting any performers in general, proved tougher than Jones imagined, as many either flinched or ignored her when they were invited to play at an event with the word "rape" in the title.

Along with that, getting any type of promotion or attention for the event was an equally tough battle.

"I was turned down a lot by social media and the news," Jones says. "I completely understand. The topic is not an easy one. So I totally get that.

"It's time for people to pay attention, and I'm excited for it all to come together."

Among those happy to support the cause is Kansas City band Striving for Cairo, which had no hesitation jumping on board.

"I don't want to pat ourselves on the back, but we all have huge hearts for anyone that wants to see us play ... especially for a good cause," lead singer and guitarist Ben Driskell says.

Having opened for Chevelle and Saving Abel, the hard rock band, consisting of Driskell, Anthony Vitale, David Sander and Steven Kryzck, has a solid following in its hometown that the guys hope will help expose to the cause.

"We just to go and have fun and it's for a great cause. You can't really turn that down," Driskell says.

It's amazing to Jones that this is happening at all, as it evolved from her writing a blog about her experiences to helping others to giving speeches on the topic.

Jones says she couldn't have done it without the advocate from the St. Joseph YWCA.

"Having an advocate there, that saved my life. I would not have gone as far and I wouldn't have stood up for myself without them," she says.

At the event, Jones says she hopes to put others in contact with advocates, as well as give them a safe place to have a good time with music, discussion and, yes, beer.

"I wanted to make sure people could come and feel comfortable to drink and fight it with a good cause," she says. "I get a lot of the time, 'Oh, she was drinking. So that's why it happened to her.' That's not true. Rape happens because someone raped someone else."

As opposed to three years ago, Jones is happy and content. If she can pass that on and destroy stereotypes and stigmas, her goal will be achieved.

"If two people show up, that's two people I hope I made a difference," she says. "It's a good way to celebrate all of the accomplishments. I'm just really excited."

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug.?

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(c)2014 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

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Source: St. Joseph News-Press (MO)