The Day of Healing, the last event of the month-long “Take Back the Night” campaign promoting sexual assault awareness and prevention, took place Friday in the Amphitheater. This event was intended to provide self-care resources and an opportunity to de-stress as students reflected on the month of sexual assault awareness and dealt with the conflicts in their own lives. The event featured multiple interactive and informational tables available for students to engage with in the Amphitheater, as well as yoga and mindfulness sessions taking place at the 1515 studio during that time.
Amelia Wilt, a second-year College student and chair of the Day of Healing, spoke about why the Day of Healing is a significant event to include in Take Back the Night.
“I think it’s important … to just take this moment as a breather,” Wilt said. “To check in with myself and make sure I am well in every way that I can be.”
A variety of tables and activities were available for students to engage with. A large cloth was laid out on the ground with the question “What is Love?” posed in the middle, with students writing their answers around the tarp with colorful pens. One table gave students the opportunity to write a fear or worry they had on a piece of rice paper, and then watch it dissolve in a bowl of water.
Another table helped students assemble their own “finals survival kit,” with free energy bars, pens, stickers and more available to choose from. Therapy dogs wandered around the event for students to pet, music played and free Insomnia cookies were available for participants to take.
There were also tables dedicated to providing students with resources to help them address turmoil caused by mental health, sexual violence and other issues. Attending groups included One in Four, Sexual Assault Resource Agency, HELP Line and others.
One Less, an organization on Grounds that works to raise awareness about issues surrounding sexual violence at the University, was one of the groups that hosted a resources table at the Day of Healing.
“I think that it’s really important for One Less to be involved with Take Back the Night and other events like this on grounds because we just want to create a healthier and safer community here at U.Va.,” said Elizabeth Kruse, a third-year College student and volunteer with One Less. “Basically, any support that we can provide to this community is important.”
Alexandra Dimas, a second-year College student and a volunteer at the HELP Line table, spoke about the importance of offering resources and avenues of support to those in need. HELP Line is an anonymous telephone service offered through Madison House in which members of the community can speak with a trained volunteer about whatever issues they may be dealing with.
“Oftentimes, sexual assault survivors or people who have known people who have gone through sexual assault don’t know how to respond, or feel like they don’t have anyone they can turn to,” Dimas said. “Having an anonymous helpline like this is just so important so people know that there’s a listening ear out there … [that] they can help them, they can listen, they can offer resources, which is a good first step if someone’s not ready to open up yet.”
There was also a table representing , a student-run organization. The website features testimony and advice from University students to anonymous readers, intended to create a community of support and acceptance to those who may be struggling.
Alexandra Pentel, a fourth-year College student and founder of IfYoureReadingThis.org, said the website is relevant to students who may be feeling displaced or are struggling with their situations.
“The overall mission is to eventually have enough letters that any U.Va. student could scroll through … and feel supported in that moment by saying, ‘Hey, there’s someone here who wants to support me and understands,’” Pentel said. “So by identifying these students, hopefully they feel comfortable, if they ever need to [talk] to a friend.”
A large table also piled high with prizes and gift baskets for the Day of Healing raffle. At each event that Take Back the Night hosted throughout the month of April, students had the option of having an event card punched to prove their participation, which they could then redeem for a proportional number of raffle tickets at the Day of Healing.
Kennedy Couch, a fourth-year College student and member of the Day of Healing committee, hosted the raffle table and helped pass out raffle tickets to students and explain the process.
“I don’t think we ever thought it would grow to this scale,” Couch said. “We wanted to encourage more attendance at Take Back the Night events, so we then thought of the idea of creating a stamp card … to kind of encourage people to come and increase their chances of winning stuff.”
Raffle prizes were donated from University figures and local businesses, including an Elderberry Herbals teapot gift basket, four U.Va. baseball tickets, lunch with Dean of Students Allen Groves, donated and signed items from U.Va. sports teams and a Simply Yoga gift card, among many others.
“So usually we would go in person or write an email to the organization to speak to the manager, and just explain what we are, the purpose of the event and just ask if there was anything they felt comfortable donating,” Couch said. “People were pretty amenable to wanting to donate and support the cause.”
Wilt also spoke about the significance of including a raffle in Take Back the Night this year.
“This year Take Back the Night had events spread throughout the entire month of April, and we wanted to encourage people to come to them, since we had a lot of great [events] planned,” Wilt said. “We contacted a lot of local businesses to offer donations, we got a lot of great responses and we ended up with over $800 worth of prizes to put into baskets.”
The raffle was a new addition to Take Back the Night this year, in an attempt to keep students engaged with the events spread out over the month of April.
“It was a fun thing to have the raffle, and I think that encourages people to come out, and it’s a great way to get community partners involved, so local businesses — we would explain to them our cause and why it matters to us, which I think is awesome,” Wilt said. “I hope that whoever is the chair for the event next year continues to improve upon it and grow it and come up with great new ideas to make it even better and attract lots of people.”
Wilt also emphasized how having an event that allowed students outlets of relaxation or catharsis was important during the school year.
“I think that people are under a lot of stress this time of year, even if they’re not survivors of assault — even if they’re not members of the prevention community and they’re not dealing with this issue directly in their lives, everybody has stressors,” Wilt said. “Everybody has things that keep them from being mentally and physically well.”
The Day of Healing marks the close of the University’s 2018 Take Back the Night.