University of Richmond students shared stories about sexual violence during the annual Take Back the Night event held Tuesday night in the Forum.

Take Back the Night is an annual nationwide event that is held to promote awareness about sexual violence by providing a Forum for victims to share their stories.

Richmond has hosted a Take Back the Night event for more than 10 years to bring attention to the issue of sexual violence, said Kerry Fankhauser, Westhampton College associate dean.

Most universities and colleges host similar events to make people aware that sexual violence does happen to students, she said.

The event at Richmond was coordinated by Student Voices Against Violence. Its co-presidents are sophomores Lauren Camuso and Carey Finchem.

"I think it is very important on this campus because it can be so overlooked at times when it shouldn't be," Finchem said. "Hopefully people realize what is going on and can take something from this and make the world a better place."

Fankhauser has been working with Student Voices Against Violence for six years and has been the group's primary adviser for three years.

"Other than the publicity, it is pretty easy to plan," Fankhauser said. "It's just getting people out there. People tend to feel more comfortable if there is a larger group."

More than 100 students, including more than 20 men, attended the event.

Rebekah Carrow, YWCA hospital accompaniment and public education specialist, gave the introduction and told a brief history of the Take Back the Night movement.

In 1976, women's supporters demanded a world without rape, she said. This stand against sexual violence first became known as Reclaim the Night and later became Take Back the Night.

The purpose of the event was to collectively gather strength, she said.

"This is the collective spirit of people who come together and demand an end to violence," she said.

After the introduction, the microphone was left open for victims to share their stories.

One victim spoke about her birthday party a few years ago. "Neither of us was very worried because our best guy friend was going to be there," she said of herself and a friend. "That's the night my protector turned into my rapist."

Her best friend did not believe her about what happened, she said.

"That may have been the worst part of it," she said.

Another speaker emphasized the importance of the forum Take Back the Night provided.

"When else are you going to get the opportunity to talk to so many people and just have them hear you," she said.

Several speakers stressed that sexual violence is not the victim's fault.

"For anyone out there that doesn't want to talk yet, just know that it is not your fault," one victim said.

Speakers also encouraged audience members to believe their friends if they ever said they were sexually assaulted.

"If someone tells you something like this, there's no reason they'd make it up," a victim said.

The event ended with audience members lighting candles and sharing a moment of silence.

The silence was important to the event, Fankhauser said.

"I know silence can often be uncomfortable but I think it is important for this event because it brings to light the silence that often accompanies this," she said.

Victims of sexual violence are encouraged to share their stories and can seek help from many different departments on campus, such as Counseling and Psychological Services, the deans' offices, the Office of the Chaplaincy (cq) and the Student Health Center.

Contact reporter Ashley Graham at ashley.graham@richmond.edu