On Thursday, April 8, the Women’s Center held their annual “Take Back the Night” event, a space to learn and speak openly about sexual assault. Though it was held online this year, the hosts created a safe and comfortable environment, allowing attendees to feel connected despite the distance.
This year’s theme was “Roots in Resilience,” which focuses on the strength of survivors of sexual assault. It symbolizes identity and growth, seeking to empower survivors and inspire resilience.
“I think it is incredibly important to have spaces of healing like Take Back the Night, especially in this online environment,” Gladi Suero, a sixth-semester communications major and campus correspondent at The Daily Campus, said. “It is so hard to find spaces of support and it made me so happy to see so many people in community with one another.”
Prior to discussing sexual assault and how it has impacted attendees on a more personal level, the hosts shared statistics that prove conversations like these are needed now more than ever.
Since the onset of the pandemic, sexual and domestic violence have been on the rise all over the globe. Hotlines in Spain, China and France have reported drastic increases in call volume. Survivors may be stuck in abusive environments, lack resources to escape or be cut off from their support systems because of the coronavirus, leading to more people living in dangerous situations.
The hosts also led a discussion on understanding consent, as well as satisfaction with sexual education programs in high schools. Allowing the participants to guide the direction of the conversation on these topics fostered a sense of community and highlighted how many people have similar experiences when learning about these topics.
Several attendees reported their school focused on the biological side of sex, avoiding conversations of consent and pleasure. Sexually transmitted diseases and risks appeared to be a common discussion in classrooms, as did emphasis on abstinence. Those who reported having a strong foundation in their understanding of consent and pleasure also said that it came from friends or family, not their classes.
The hosts invited attendees to participate in a survey about what they believed to perpetuate sexual assault. Highest on the list was “victim blaming,” followed by “a lack of exposure to sexual consent education,” both of which show the importance of holding conversations that will break these barriers down and inform others about sexual assault and how to prevent it.
After the presentation and surveys, the discussion turned toward survivors and their stories.
In lieu of the annual candlelight march, the hosts invited all attendees to light their own candle in support of survivors. The minute of silence was somber and heavy with the knowledge that so many people are impacted by sexual violence, but the sense of community created in the space showed that no survivor stands alone.
The survivor speak-out opened the floor for all participants to volunteer to share their experiences. Several means of sharing were offered, including an anonymous platform. This ensured that everyone who wanted to open up was able to in the way they would be most comfortable with. Those who shared were met with an outpouring of support from the audience. Survivors showed their own resilience in their stories, validating and inspiring others to speak as well.
“I thought the contributions by survivors were so moving and important to hear as well, and I’m glad they were given space to be validated.”
“I thought the contributions by survivors were so moving and important to hear as well, and I’m glad they were given space to be validated,” Suero said.
In the judgement-free space, all audience members approached this difficult subject with respect and understanding, proving they stand with survivors.
Take Back the Night was an empowering event, showing that all survivors of sexual assault are strong and resilient, and every survivor’s story matters.