University hosts ‘Take Back the Night’ rally

Caitlin O’HalloranReporter

The Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy and Support (VPAS) Center held their take back the night on April 12.

Take Back the Night is a worldwide movement to stand against sexual violence and shatter the silence and stigmas.

“April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and especially with COVID going on, it’s just increased the amount of sexual violence and domestic violence that we’re seeing,” said the VPAS Center graduate intern Rachel Ellis, “especially around college-aged students, so it’s very important for us to be out here and be visible and just show the community that no matter how distanced we feel because of COVID, that it’s still a real issue and there is still support out here for them.”

Throughout March and early April, the center held tabling’s throughout campus for promotion of the event where students and those on campus could learn more about the event. Those who stopped by the tabling were able to create messages of support for survivors that would then be displayed at the virtual event.

The event began on the Buley Patio, where students had a chance to create signs in support of survivors.

“This whole entire event is centered around uplifting and hearing the stories of many, either students or just people in general, who are survivors of sexual violence,” said social work major Jurea McIntosh, a junior and VPAS student worker. “We definitely took months of preparation for this event.”

Students from multiple different clubs and organizations gathered around tables to make signs.

“Personally, I’m here to support my friends and family that I know have been affected by this, my other fellow classmates that have been affected, and just to raise awareness about this issue,” said social work major Maria Bernabucci, a sophomore who was representing Omega Zeta Pi and Active Minds.

It’s just a great way to support survivors, especially those who haven’t, you know, even spoken about their assault. It’s just an opportunity to even come in silence and seeing other people speak out, even if you don’t want to speak out is so important for survivors because it’s definitely a topic that is very triggering and represses the survivor to go back to the situation,” said public health major Mariah Villanova, a senior and VPAS student worker.

A march began at 2 p.m. and those participating marched over to the Residence Life Quad where a Tree Dedication event began.

“This tree is for those who held their truth in silence,” said Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention Specialist, Melissa Kissi. “We dedicate this tree to the silence-breakers.”

At the Tree Dedication, there were supportive speeches given by VPAS members, and a poem written and read by Ellis.

After the Tree Dedication, the virtual Take Back the Night event began via WebEx at 7 p.m. VPAS members read different anonymous submissions from survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence, then proceeded to a slideshow of supportive artwork that had been submitted to the center for those survivors.

“It shows so much support, so much community at Southern and I like to be very family-like when I do these events because, you know, we’re all Southern. We are all that Southern family,” said Villanova.

Throughout the three different events in honor of Take Back the Night, the center always emphasized the support they had, always available to students who have suffered through these experiences.

We join together, heal together, fight for what is right together,” chanted Villanova along with students on the Residence Life Quad.

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