The usual bustle of the University Forum on Sunday quieted as sexual assault survivors and allies gathered in solidarity to share their personal encounters with sexual violence.

Take Back the Night is an annual event organized by the Office of Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention to provide sexual assault survivors a platform to voice their stories to other survivors and allies in the campus community.  

“Some people have to think about [sexual assault] every single day of their life and some people don’t think about it at all,” said sophomore Erin Watton, intern at the Office of Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention. “So I think [Take Back the Night] just helps bring it into people’s minds.” 

Watton said one thing she really appreciated about Take Back the Night was that professors could come to the event at the beginning and show their support but were then asked to leave, so it was all about the students coming together to show their support for one another.

Choeur du Roi, a UR co-ed a cappella group, performed “Warrior” by Demi Lovato before the open mic portion of the event began. 

Many of the students who spoke at the open mic discussed actions that had brought them hope after trauma, including writing, religion, confiding in friends and often just time.  

Senior Anna Lowenthal, intern at the Office of Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention, spoke about her non-linear healing path. 

“Not having a great day is part of my healing journey, and I want everyone here to know that you don’t always have to put on a positive game face,” she said. “It is okay to say no when you need a break.”

A wreath of blue ribbons was displayed at the front of the Forum during the event. Interns of the Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention Office tabled in Tyler Haynes Commons before the event and encouraged students to place a ribbon on the wreath for someone they knew who was a survivor of sexual assault. 

“Whether you’re a survivor or an ally, this space is for you, and I hope you use it to help you heal, whatever that means to you,” Lowenthal said. 

Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors were available during the event. After students shared their stories, they were handed a card with on and off-campus resources that also had hand-written notes of encouragement from students on it.  

As the sun set, more people gathered and stayed, even through long moments of silence as students summoned up the courage to speak. 

“The event is a really great opportunity for people to share their stories and in doing that, they can help with their own healing process while inspiring other survivors,” said first-year Emma Meade, intern at the Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention Office.

Meade said the event also was important because it emphasized the need for students to be active bystanders and to work to prevent sexual assault in the future.

You never know what someone is going through, a speaker said.

Watton also spoke to this sentiment of looking out for others in the community.

“I hope that people are just looking out for each other, in this aspect and in general,” Watton said. “We are a community and I think events like these, although very hard for people to come up and speak, are really great ways to bring everyone together and form a more unified community.”

Lowenthal ended the night by reciting a poem from “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur, “The world gives you so much pain and here you are making gold out of it, there is nothing purer than that.” 

There was a debrief in THC rooms 346 and 348 immediately following the event, and another debrief session took place at 6:30 p.m. on the following Monday, April 8, in THC room 321. 

Take Back the Night is only one of the events being held this April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Other events included a self-defense class on April 9 that was organized by PSMAs and the University Police Department. Denim Day, a national movement to raise awareness for sexual assault, is on April 24.

Confidential on-campus resources for survivors of sexual violence include Counseling and Psychological Services, PSMAs (psma@richmond.edu), the Office of the Chaplaincy and the Student Health Center. Safe Harbor Advocate is a confidential off-campus resource. 

Non-confidential resources are the university police, the Title IX office, the Westhampton College and Richmond College dean's offices and the Office of Common Ground. 

Contact news writer Emma Davis at emma.davis@richmond.edu.

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