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Sexual Assault Leadership Council launches Take Back the Night week

Dean Nicole Eramo to chair sexual misconduct mock trial

Monday marked the beginning of Take Back the Night Week, sponsored and lead by the Sexual Assault Leadership Council.

Take Back the Night is a national organization and event advocating sexual violence prevention which began with rallies and marches in the 1970s. The event has been held at the University for 14 years.

“It was traditionally a one-night event with a survivor vigil and speak out, but we’ve chosen to expand it to a week of events here at U.Va. in order to help incorporate more programming around related topics such as sexual misconduct trials, bystander intervention and how to support a survivor,” said fourth-year College student Emily Renda, chair of SALC.

Take Back the Night aims to create both awareness and change in educating students about the different issues concerning sexual assault, Renda said, especially the challenges survivors face.

There will be a Sexual Misconduct Board mock trial Tuesday which aims to educate students on how the misconduct process works and what rules govern it. The trial will be headed by Assoc. Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, who is the chair of the Sexual Misconduct Board.

“I’ll be ‘chairing’ the mock hearing and serving as the moderator of the question and answer panel afterwards,” Eramo said in an email. “The mock hearing is a great way for students to learn about a process that is generally handled confidentially, behind closed doors. It allows students to better understand the process and hopefully feel more comfortable using it if they or someone they know is victimized. It also allows for students to question the process and for those of us who work in this area to listen thoughtfully and attempt to address those questions and concerns.”

The SALC will also host the “Open Arts Slam” Wednesday night in the mezzanine of the Bookstore. There, anyone can share a spoken word, dance or other art piece to speak out against sexual assault. The Take Back the Night rally will be held Thursday, starting on Nameless Field at 6:30 p.m., then moving to the Amphitheater for a vigil at 8 p.m.

Renda stressed the collaboration that occurs between peer leaders and administrators that helps to facilitate the success of the week as a whole. The Inter-Sorority Council offered co-sponsorship money and provided support for the week. The Women’s Center is also providing assistance, putting on a “Day of Healing and Wellness” at the end of the week.

“I think we’d like to see students take away from this week a sense of impetus to change, and specific issues they want to target and affect,” Renda said. “Most of this comes down to simply changing the way we act towards each other, the way we talk about sexual assault and the way we treat and believe survivors. Our hope is to stop the negative responses survivors get from their peers and create a culture of believing and empowering.”

Eramo echoed the benefits of the event.

“TBTN is such a rich week of events that provide opportunities for the community to learn about the impact of sexual violence on our Grounds and ways in which others can show care, concern and support for survivors,” she said. “This is a national issue getting a great deal of attention from President Obama’s Task Force on down, and our students can and should be knowledgeable and able to engage in this broader dialogue.”


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