By ALLISON GUY
CAMPUS –Students from all over campus gathered in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with an important mission: to raise awareness of sexual assault and end sexual violence.
SU’s Take Back the Night event is one of many international Take Back the Night activities. According to the program handed out during the event, Take Back the Night rallies and marches originated in England as a way for women to protest the fear they experienced while walking at night.
On campus, Take Back the Night events have been held for more than 12 years. This year’s event, themed “Embrace Your Voice!” was sponsored by the Counseling Center, Campus Housing and Residence Life, Disability Resource Center and Life Crisis Center.
“The purpose is to raise awareness and empower people,” Dr. Kathy Scott, director of the Counseling Center and leader of the planning committee for the event, said. “Empower survivors and people that know them. . . Sexual violence in all forms, whether it’s sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, are prevalent in our culture… in the world, really, not just in our culture… and even on college campuses.”
From 6:30 to 7 p.m., there were resource tables set up in the room leading into the Great Hall. Each table was hosted by an organization or campus office, including Life Crisis Center, Counseling Center and Sexual Health Advocacy Group.
The rally portion of the evening began at 7 p.m. with a welcome from Scott and an opening statement from Disability Resource Counselor Candace Henry, who touched on the terminology generally associated with sexual assault, including the “Me Too” Movement, “#timesup” and #nomore.
Cassidy Zeller of the Counseling Center and Dee Copeland of the Life Crisis Center introduced resources available to students who are victims of sexual assault.
“Sexual violence leaves visible and invisible scars on all of us.” Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Dane Foust said in a welcome statement.
Both Foust and the next speaker, Deputy City Administrator Alison Pulcher, expressed the mixed emotions they were feeling—sadness caused by the tragedies of assault and violence, and hopefulness that awareness will increase and the occurrences of sexual violence will decrease.
After these talks a video about rape culture was shown, a community member read an original poem and SU’s a cappella group Squawkappella performed. Next came the “Speak Out” portion of the event in which resident assistants gave statistics about sexual violence.
The next part of the event was the open mic, during which several members of the campus community went up to the podium to speak about sexual assault and sexual violence. Some read poetry and others told stories, both about themselves and about people they knew. One person even sang a song.
The evening ended with closing remarks from Henry and a student reading of the poem “And Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. The song “I Rise Up” by Andra Day played as students waved glow sticks, which were handed out at the beginning of the event, in the air.
Emma Tarnosky, a sophomore resident assistant who read statistics at the event, believes that raising awareness of sexual assault is crucial.
“Stuff like this is so important,” Tarnosky said. “And it seems like it’s a hard issue to figure out what to do with. But empowering the survivors, and raising awareness in places where it [sexual assault] happens so prevalently is really important.”
Junior Kelli Anne Curley, one of the students who spoke at the event, echoed Emma’s sentiment.
“Overall, the event is very important, and I know each year I’ve come, it’s helped me process and form emotions, and it’s helped me a lot, and I think that’s what’s important,” Curley said. “I think it’s a great event. I’m so happy that we do it.”
Featured graphic from Salisbury University.