Hundreds of students, staff and faculty gathered at the Spring Creek Campus for the “Walking the Path of Dignity” event to learn about sexual assault and domestic violence.

The event kicked off The Dignity Initiative, a multi-year effort to educate the campus and community about five aspects of violence against women and empower individuals toward specific action steps.

In his speech, Collin College District President Cary Israel said that domestic violence was an epidemic.

“This college is committed to ending violence,” President Israel said. “And I challenge all of us to work together.”

In addition to his speech, students performed a dramatic interpretation about sexual assault statistics and situations. Other students read poetry aloud and resource tables were staffed across the atrium to educate and provide information about violence and sexual assault.

Sherry Rhodes, professor of speech and chair of the Collin College Committee Against Gender Violence and Oppression, said violence against women has been increasing at an alarming rate in homes and communities around the world.

“Our goal is to educate students and the community about the causes and effects of gender violence and oppression and partner with faculty, student and community organizations to take action toward the respectful treatment of women,” Rhodes said.

Student Janice Hitchcock is the student liaison for The Dignity Initiative and wrote an original poem for the poetry reading.

“For hours, I was scouring around for a poem that would work for the event and I wasn’t finding anything,” Hitchcock said. “And as I kept looking, the poem just kind of came to me. This isn’t about bashing men or taking power away from anybody but to lift people up and stop violence against women.”

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, nearly 240,000 people are sexually assaulted every year in the United States. That rate means that every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted.

“Opportunities like this allow people to speak up,” Hitchcock said. “I’m proud to be a part of something like this that creates a safe space.”

For more information about The Dignity Initiative and a full list of related events through spring 2015, visit