For the last event of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, on Thursday, Counseling and Psychological Services at Sonoma State University hosted Take Back the Night, a time to reflect on the wounds some still hold as sexual assault survivors.
Shirts hung in Salazar Plaza for the Clothesline Project were fitted onto chairs inside the Student Center Ballroom.
As audience members filed into their seats, they were able to look at the T-shirts sexual assault survivors had once made to voice their emotions. Once the ballroom fell silent, the night began.
With short introductions from “The Vagina Monologues” cast and a representative from the sexual assault crisis center, Verity, the floor opened for students to speak about their personal experiences.
The stories that followed within the next hour and a half captivated the audience and brought most to tears.
Hearing about the challenges some women on campus face was a humbling experience for those in the audience.
“I have never been to an event regarding sexual assault,” said freshman Madison Muro. “It was eye- opening to be able to hear girls who have gone through such horrible things and are coming out stronger in the end.”
After each woman shared their sexual assault story, the audience gave their support with applause. It was evident sharing their stories was not an easy task, especially in front of a crowded room.
However, the consideration given by the audience, Counseling and Psychological Services and the girls from “The Vagina Monologues” made the night nothing but supportive. The sharing ended just before 10 p.m. and the march began shortly after.
The Take Back the Night March was first held in San Francisco in 1978 to protest violence against women. The idea was for women to fill the streets of their communities and demand they be made safe for them.
“The candlelight march through campus honors the experience of survivors and is a wonderful way to express our community’s solidarity in the stance that we will no longer tolerate sexual assault,” said Counseling and Psychological Services psychologist Laura Williams.
For the march, victims and their supporters held a candle as they walked around campus.
Students in the Sauvignon residence hall could hear “yes means yes, no means no” being chanted as they marched.
“Marching was an extremely powerful experience for me,” said freshman Emily Buchner. “Even though I’m not a sexual assault survivor, marching with those who are made me feel invincible and powerful like I had a voice.”
Take Back the Night was a significant part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month for both survivors and students at Sonoma State.
“Often survivors tell me that being able to finally talk openly about their experience is an integral part of their healing process. The event also helps to build compassion and understanding for the ongoing struggles and courage of survivors,” said Williams. “Witnessing others tell their stories and relate ways they have found to heal may also inspire other survivors to come forward and either get help or become active in the cause.”
Take Back the Night was a time for reflection, building empathy, awareness and community in order to prevent sexual assault.
As the girls who shared their stories made clear, the fight is not over and sexual assault demands to be talked about.