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United for Change fights sex abuse

Google serves as a path to information, a vehicle for answers, a portal for research.

Yet Sabrina Sadler, a sexual assault victim, sought so much more when she logged on in the spring of 2007.

Sadler, then a student at Sacramento State University in the California capital, responded to the crisis with courage, searching for support on how to go from victim to survivor to advocate.

She discovered the link for Unite for Change (www.uniteforchange.com), a campaign to promote sexual assault awareness and prevention.

It was a perfect connection.

Co-founders and Tampa Bay residents Becca Tieder and Kelly Addington speak at campuses across the nation with a humorous yet effective approach about the problem. One in four women will be sexually assaulted during college, and 85 percent of the attacks involve alcohol.

"You don't realize sexual assault happens until it happens to you or someone you know," said Sadler, 25. "It just changed my outlook in life. It gave me a passion to look for things like Unite for Change."

It always means a lot to Tieder and Addington when someone shares her personal story, but Addington found inspiration in the purity of Sadler's initial e-mail.

"This was something that had recently happened to her, and she was already wanting to know what she could do to help," Addington said.

One e-mail led to another, and Sadler eventually became a summer intern. She continues to volunteer with Unite for Change, but has done so much more — partly because of a 2007 sexual assault at California's DeAnza College that ABC's 20/20 recently profiled.

At a party loaded with alcohol, a group of DeAnza baseball players allegedly raped a comatose 17-year-old girl behind locked doors. Three women, soccer players at the school, intervened. They threw their bodies against the door, popped it open and took the girl to a hospital.

At Sacramento State, they drew inspiration from the three girls and the alleged victim, creating No Woman Left Behind (www.nowomanleftbehindcampaign.org) to educate about sexual assault and promote women being responsible for each other at parties and night clubs.

After returning to Sacramento, Sadler become a force for the campaign, speaking to students and promoting glow-in-the-dark wristbands that symbolize sisterhood.

"At first, I just got stares like, 'Why are you coming in and talking about sexual assault,' " Sadler said. "It didn't seem very welcoming but they support me a lot more now. I've had people reach out to me who want to get involved in the campaign."

Addington and Tieder, both 34, listen to Sadler speak like proud moms at a dance recital. In a way, Sadler has done more for them than they've done for her.

"She's touched thousands of people in Northern California because she decided that she could and she would," Tieder said. "That's what makes Kelli and I willing to do our work."

Sadler returned to Florida this week to join Addington and Tieder at the National Conference on Sexual Assault in Our Schools (www.safesocietyzone.com), which starts Friday in Lake Buena Vista.

Ultimately, Addington and Tieder want to create a cultural shift in how we treat each other. They will succeed if they connect with more people like Sadler who are unwillingly to idly stand by and let this continue to happen.

That's all I'm saying.

United for Change fights sex abuse 11/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 11:29pm]
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