It could not have been a more beautiful night on Monday, April 4, 2011. Around 300 students and faculty gathered in the Forum for Take Back the Night, a place free from sexual assault and abuse where men and women "shatter the silence."
I sat in the crowd as I have every year, but this year was different. The past three years I had a growing anxiety within me throughout the entire event. I would ask myself: "When should I go up?" "Should I go up?" "What exactly do I have to say?" I knew I had stories, comments and encouragement to share, but every year I thought - next year. Well, I'm a senior now, and this seemed like my last opportunity as an undergrad to take back my nights, but all I felt while I was sitting in the crowd on that beautiful, clear night was peace.
I could have told my story -- I could tell you my story now but I felt my greatest service this year was to listen. I am so grateful for the men and women who shared their stories, especially those who shared theirs for the first time, and I am just as grateful for the men and women who listened.
Often we do not think about the great importance of story-telling. We are told in our academic settings to argue, make points and have a clear thesis, but we forget about the simple power in storytelling. Our stories are ongoing, they are not complete, and often, they do not have clear conclusions. Stories should be told for the sake of telling them, for the sake of the storyteller and the audience.
During the moment of silence, I thought I should think about my personal scars and the ones of those who spoke, and they did flash briefly behind my closed eyes. But then, strangely enough, I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving. I was thankful for the beautiful people gathered, for grace, for healing, for the relationship I'm in now with someone who respects me.
If there is anything I want to share now that I didn't last night it is that I've been there, and I've been a skeptic, but I have come to realize that there are amazing men and women. There is freedom in letting go of your nights, and there is healing.