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Take Back the Night: No one is alone

Samantha Higgins

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Take Back the Night, an event hosted by the University of New Haven’s Victimology club on Tuesday, April 14, was held to create a space to honor victims and survivors of sexual assault, with a mission to end sexual assault in all forms.

Students participating in Take Back the Night (Photo by Samantha Higgins/Charger Bulletin Photo)

Students participating in Take Back the Night (Photo by Samantha Higgins/Charger Bulletin Photo)

Jennifer Wenderoth, college advocate for the Rape Crisis Center of Milford, opened the night by assuring the full room that there would be no reporting that night; it was a safe place for all and anyone was free and welcome to share a story, poem, or song.

Brittany Bauch, president of the Victimology Club spoke next, reminding the audience members that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and shared the horrifying statistics that one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. When someone makes a rape joke in class, she said, it’s better to consider what a victim or survivor is going through than getting a few laughs. In the United States, someone is raped every two minutes and this night is about creating a space to honor victims and survivors with a mission to end sexual assault in all forms.

Sergeant Holster from campus police took the podium next to make sure everyone was aware of the location of campus police. He also made it clear that they are there to help all victims and survivors of sexual assault and other crimes; yes, they are mandated reporters, he said, but they are also a resource. Campus police officers are not there just to get students in trouble—they are open to helping students, are very victim centered and encourage students to stop by any time.

Dean Ric Baker and Title IX Coordinator Ashley Guerrera were next. Dean Baker was supporting the cause by wearing a Violence Prevention and Intervention Center T-shirt that read “make it your mission to get permission.” The two spoke about the university process and how they constantly work to update it and make it clearer. The process is victim friendly and questions can always be asked—they’d rather you come to their offices in Bartels and ask them questions and be informed then not know the information.

When the information portion of the night ended, Wenderoth showed a video featuring UNH students and staff with duct tape over their mouth and a word or phrase written on it. Most of the words revolved around being silenced about sexual violence; a second photo featured the student or staff member with the tape torn in two. Words and phrases chosen included “rape culture,” “asked for it,” “no consent,” and “they were drunk,” among other entirely true and insightful choices.

The speak-out began with a keynote who resides in West Haven, Conn. She shared her extremely personal and powerful story of an experience at the University of Rhode Island. She showed amazing strength and courage throughout her time at the podium and her entire family was in the audience as support. She ended her story by stating she is “living proof that sexual assault is real and needs to stop now.”

Between speakers, there were awkward silences where the hesitation of those trying to muster the courage to come forward could be heard. However, so many students still found the strength throughout the night to come forward and face a room full of people to share their stories. As some struggled, cried or showed fear, audience members reminded them it was a safe place; friends came forward to lend support. The amount of support from not only friends but also strangers was heartwarming.

The speak-out ended with a poem and from there, the participants took a banner and marched around campus chanting empowering including “yes means yes and no means no.” The chanting led them to the Maxcy quad, where they held a candlelight vigil and each person lit a candle in honor of victims, survivors, those who support others and those who have yet to have the courage to come forward.

The main message throughout the night was that no one was alone. The night was emotionally packed but the room was filled with warriors.

 

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Take Back the Night: No one is alone