Take Back the Night creates safe space to share

Vanessa Madonna

Walk together. Stand together. Take Back the Night.

Last Thursday, April 23, Sexual Assault Awareness Support and Advocacy hosted its seventh annual Take Back the Night. The goal is to spread the awareness of sexual assault while giving survivors a safe place to share their stories. The event started at 5:30 p.m. in the Community Center with an array of musical performances, t-shirt designing and food provided by Meriwether Godsey.

As students walked in, they were greeted by music from senior Abigail Murray-Nikkel, senior David Wheaton and the campus a cappella group Friend Sings My Mind. The mood was light:  attendees could grab some ice cream while entering their names to win fun prizes.

The room soon filled with deep emotion as guest speakers stood up to talk about sexual assault awareness.

“When I tell my story and people come to me to thank me and to share a portion of themselves with me, (this) is the best gift I can receive,” said Cease And Love Myself co-founder Robin Ranae Shakir in a phone interview.

As the last guest speaker’s speech ended, SAASA handed out prizes such as donated books, consent cups and t-shirts. SAASA then led the room to the lake where the candlelight vigil and speakout were held.

“The entirety of the Speakout was the most (memorable) because of how emotional it was and how eye opening it

is to see how prevalent sexual assault is, especially on college campuses,” said senior Camden Lambert.

Tears were shed, stories were told and the community came together, hugging one another. The silence between stories was broken only by sniffles from students and faculty and the crackling of the bonfire.

“Sexual assault is a very important issue,” said junior Cassie Vaughn. “What I learned is (that) these things happen to people at such young ages and you would never be able to tell because the people that I see that have spoken out, they walk around with smiles on their faces every day.”

“Safety is another thing that I (believe) is important. I hope people took away that (sexual assault) is a very serious issue and we need it to be solved.”

As the candles started to burn out and the speakout concluded, everyone stood in a circle around the remains of the fire, holding hands. One student led the rest of the circle in a closing song called “The River She is Flowing,” in which all could either sing or hum along to. There was a final chant of “I am whoever I say I am,” and then everyone joined in for hugs.

“I think that the event gave people an opportunity to share some really painful experiences.” said junior and SAASA president Alex Barbour in an email interview. “That’s not a space that exists all the time at Guilford, Take Back the Night did what was intended by creating that space and initiated community-building between attendees.”

Looking out for your community can help put an end to sexual assault. This event helped victims become survivors, taught others to stop and help if they see something suspicious and encouraged consensual behavior.

“It’s important to remember that for everyone who has experienced sexual assault, we’re all in different places in the healing process,” said Barbour. “As a community … we must believe the experiences of survivors and support them when they share with us, because just sharing those stories is an extremely (difficult) thing to do.”

Survivors express their emotions in a number of ways: through poetry, song or just simply telling their heartbreaking story.

“Write a poem about how (you) feel, about (your) particular situation,” said Shakir. “Let’s start a trend, let’s change, let’s be the first to make it possible to break the silence here.”

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