English poet and novelist Sarah Williams once said, “Though my soul may be set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
This deeply resonant saying is emblematic of Take Back the Night, an organization at the University which advocates for survivors of sexual assault. Take Back the Night strives to initiate conversation about sexual assault and provide a chance for the community to coalesce and brighten the lives of survivors.
“Take Back the Night has been happening at U.Va. for a while now,” said Natalie Conners, a third-year Commerce student and Take Back the Night director. “It was always used as a way to educate people about sexual violence and raise a call to end all forms of gender based violence. This year we have been really focused on bringing communities together.”
The week of events, which takes place from April 17-23, provides several opportunities to become a part of the conversation regarding the issue of sexual assault. The week commences with a panel on “How to Support a Survivor.” This event aims to provide the community with resources and instill awareness and knowledge about sexual violence to generate support for survivors.
Another panel, titled “How to Navigate the Reporting Process,” will take place April 19 and discuss the details of the reporting process. Survivors will also share their experiences with reporting.
“It is a new event this year and I think it is something that is really important to know,” Conners said. “I realized in the beginning of the year that I knew little about how the reporting process works, so I thought why not make a Take Back the Night event to explain it.”
The organization is also hosting a vigil on April 20 which will stand as a symbolic and momentous ceremony that honors survivors.
First-year College student Shelby Slotter, a member of the subcommittee dedicated to planning the Gala, expressed her enthusiasm for the semiformal at the Fralin Museum of Art on April 21. She hopes it will serve as a chance for members to alleviate stress and pressure from the fast-paced nature of the community.
“All the committee members have been working towards creating a really celebratory, happy environment that people can come out and enjoy,” Slotter said.
The week culminates in the organization’s first Hack-A-Thon, which will occur April 22-23 at Rice Hall. The Hack-A-Thon invites all members of the community — including entrepreneurs, designers, artists and technicians — to join Take Back the Night and create a project themed around sexual assault prevention, with awards and prizes acknowledging participants’ efforts.
“The ‘Hack-A-Thon’ is new to us this year and we are so excited about it,” Conners said. “Planning for all the events began in December and each event has its own committee of incredibly dedicated students who have worked to make each even so successfully.”
The organization's primary goal is to create a dialogue among the community and engender support and advocacy at the University, in an effort to stop instances of sexual assault.
“It’s important to have a conversation about sexual assault, reaching out to survivors of sexual assault, but also people who want more information about how to talk about it and support survivors,” Slotter said.