Ryan Morgan, News Editor:
Members of the Southern community held back tears as male and female students shared their stories last week during the “speak out” segment of the 14th annual “Take Back the Night.” The goal of the event, sponsored
by the Women’s Center, the Women and Families Center and Men’s Initiative, is to raise awareness of violence and sexual assault.
“Unfortunately a night like this is the only real opportunity people have to hear about the intense things we are
talking about and some people need this opportunity to heal,” said Alex Fernandez, a crisis counselor of the Women and Families Center. “We need to have these real conversations amongst ourselves because it is important.”
A majority of the audience were members of Greek Life on campus. Many organizations canceled or postponed their weekly chapter meetings, making the event a priority for members.
“We always come to show our support,” said Shealah Day of Omega Zeta Pi sorority. “It is a great event against violence and we stand together to raise awareness. Hearing the stories tonight truly is an eye opening experience and we’ll march tonight to allow residents to see.”
The night’s program featured an opening by graduate intern Jim Hoffecker of the Men’s Initiative at the Women’s Center and Fernandez. The two encouraged men on campus to be aware of all they can do to show the community violence is unacceptable. Fernandez urged men to stand up against the tough stereotype. A man should portray and influence someone in a positive way when they see signs of violence.
“Silence can be the same as approval. It only takes one little step, whether it is not to make a certain joke or pointing out abusive tendencies in a relationship. You don’t know the impact you can 1make when you stand up and say something,” said Fernandez.
Jared Dixon sang an a cappella rendition of Brian McKnight’s “When” before keynote speaker Ebony McClease took the podium to share her story, spreading awareness and knowledge. McClease opened with a quote, “Give light for it sheds light on the darkness we attempt to hide.” McClease described the “rock bottom” she hit after being assaulted at her undergraduate institution when she was 21 years old. McClease said she turned to alcohol as a comfort and later found out she was pregnant. Eventually, with the help of her mother, McClease was able to get the help she needed and begin the healing process.
“I refuse to let someone else destroy all I worked so hard for,” said McClease. “No matter how long it takes you, you have to get back up and it’s a journey. For me I do my activism. I help stop violence against women not because it happened to me but because it is right.”
McClease also urged the audience to talk to friends and family and speak up against violence, even if it is by leaving little hints, like pamphlets on a friend’s desk who might need help. Finally, McClease described the theme of this year’s Take Back the Night, “Rooted in Power.”
“Be rooted in power. Be firm. Put roots down and let yourself grow,” said McClease.
After McClease, many audience members took the podium to share experiences with sexual assault and violence, whether it was their own or a friend’s.
“Seeing so many men and women get up there and share stories is heartbreaking but it really shows what a problem we have with sexual violence in life,” said Lianne Russo of Delta Phi Epsilon.
After the speak out, members of Beta Mu Sigma led a march around campus where participants shouted cheers and chants against domestic violence.
“It’s all about empowerment. We want you to know your power and spread that power. There is a certain strength of us all being here together,” said McClease.
Students stand up against violence
Ryan Morgan, News Editor: