The 22nd time
Essence Boyd—Copy Editor & Alexandra Scicchitano—Online Editor
For the 22nd year, university members spoke out against sexual violence last week at Take Back the Night, an open mic for survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
A large group of survivors, supporters and allies marched across the pedestrian walkway and chanted, “Yes means yes! No means no! However, we dress, wherever we go!” before the speak out.
Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy and Support Center hosted the march and open mic to let it be known, “That we don’t tolerate sexual violence here at Southern,” said social work major and VPAS student worker, Amanda Valentin.
Sabrina St. Juste, a VPAS graduate intern and survivor, said Take Back the Night was not just for female or heterosexual survivors, but for any and all survivors.
According to St. Juste, the event’s goal was “to show continuous support for those affected by sexual violence.”
Keynote speaker Mariah Villanova, a junior, welcomed survivors from the audience to share their stories.
“Telling your story makes it that you can confide in somebody to listen to you and find your voice and speak it out,” said Villanova. “When I was keeping it in [the assault] it made things worse.”
St. Juste said sharing her story during last year’s Take Back the Night marked the beginning of her healing process.
“Everyone’s healing process is different, but for me, I think sharing my story and continuously sharing my story after that [helped me]” said St. Juste. “Take Back the Night was the first time I ever spoke up about my experience with being assaulted.”
St. Juste said Take Back the Night is one of the reasons why she is where she is today and why she can share her story.
“When sharing my story last year, I didn’t necessarily know how many people I would impact. I didn’t necessarily know how many people have experienced what I experienced,” said St. Juste.
Amongst the men and women who shared their stories was social work major, Dakota DiPietro, a sophomore, said he will always be more of a man than his attacker.
“Honestly, I wanted to throw up the whole entire time, it was pretty scary,” said DiPietro. “But I felt like the only way to spread awareness is to make people uncomfortable and to make people see the dark side and sadness that it is so that they can know what it feels like.”
Education major andPeer Academic coach Alexia Reyes shared her story for the first time last week, not only to SCSU, but also her family.
“I feel like we all have this vision of rape that is so scary, by someone who hates you, it’s physically painful. My rape was not like that. It was by someone who I loved and who I thought loved me, it wasn’t physically painful,” said Reyes. “I questioned myself a lot on whether this was rape because of my vision of what rape was. My story was rape. It was not consensual. It was not okay.”
St. Juste said students coming and showing support at events like Take Back the Night, help survivors know the university cares.
Not all survivors have to tell their story if they do not want to.
“What’s theirs is theirs,” she said.
St. Juste’s said some of her hopes for the event’s future is to have the entire student body marching and participating, as every student has a story to tell.
“There are thousands of students that go to Southern, and there are thousands that have a story,” said St. Juste.
Editor’s note: Some volunteers and coordinators of this event made efforts to constrict the Southern News’ access in covering Take Back the Night, a public event. A photographer was asked to leave the event.
Photo Credit: Will Aliou