TBTN hosts sexual violence awareness Vigil
Kaplan says survivors get outlet to share, supportive community
“There needs to be more awareness about bystander intervention and speaking up when this happens – people are afraid and don’t want to get their perpetrator in trouble,” Chehata said.
The University chapter of the Take Back the Night Foundation hosted a rally and vigil Thursday night to generate awareness about gender-based sexual violence and give survivors of sexual assault an outlet to speak out and share their stories.
The vigil, which was held at the Amphitheatre, allowed students and faculty to congregate in support of those who have experienced sexual assault. Women’s Center Director Claire Kaplan, who also heads the sexual and domestic services program at the Women’s Center, said survivors of sexual assault should not feel they need to hide.
“Our basic goals are to make the University safe for survivors in ways to respond to any of the experiences they have had, and [to] work with providing survivors an outlet so that they don’t feel like they have to hide,” Kaplan said.
Various survivors shared their stories with the audience that gathered, addressing the wide range of difficulties which come with the aftermath of an assault.
The event was part of a weeklong awareness and advocacy campaign by TBTN on Grounds, which has facilitated mock trials, workshops and panels in order to “shatter the silence and stop the violence,” according to the Women’s Center website.
“Take Back the Night started in the 1970s and was an actual march,” Kaplan said. “It was probably started at the University during the late 1980s when there was a [National Organization for Women] chapter on Grounds.”
Student interns at the Women’s Center have facilitated the events, helping plan the vigil in the Amphitheatre to revitalize support for discussing sexual misconduct, which is an important issue on a college campus, Kaplan said. Interns have particularly focused on gaining support from Greek organizations on Grounds.
“Greek life has responded tremendously,” Kaplan said. “The whole [Inter-Sorority Council] is part of this event and has shown immense support to the events the TBTN foundation has on Grounds.”
Third-year College student Sandra Menendez, an intern at the Women’s Center, said students on Grounds are looking for ways to get involved.
“The rally and the march are places of empowerment, because we want people to feel that they can change something,” Menendez said.
Students at the vigil represented a force of unity for the survivors who told their stories. First-year College student Miska Chehata said the discussion of sexual violence has grown throughout Grounds, evidenced by increasing programs and seminars being held to tackle the issue.
“I take a USEM called ‘Gender Violence and Culture,’ and basically we talk about all gender sexual violence and victims, and that’s why I decided to attend,” Chehata said.
Though the vigil was heavily attended by women, Kaplan said advocacy has expanded more to males within the past years, many of whom were also in attendance.
“General awareness is important, and a lot more men are involved and feel that it is their responsibility that this tragedy occurs because most perpetrators are male — even though not all victims are female,” Kaplan said.
Chehata said she hopes students who attend these events will channel their experiences into future action.
“There needs to be more awareness about bystander intervention and speaking up when this happens — people are afraid and don’t want to get their perpetrator in trouble,” Chehata said.