International event opposing violence held at UM
Lighted candles and strong voices united on the UC Rock Tuesday to celebrate Take Back the Night, an annual international event aimed at raising awareness of the worldwide epidemic of violence against females.
This is the first time that the event has been hosted on the UM campus, and it was sponsored by the Sexual Assault Response Team [SART] with assistance from the Counseling Center’s Outreach Peer Education Group, Artemis and other student organizations.
“What do we want?” cried the organizers.
“Safe streets!” responded those gathered.
Local and national media attention was given to the event, including coverage on Channel 10 Eyewitness News.
“I came because I think that it’s an important issue that’s often overlooked,” Paula George, freshman, said. “Most people just don’t bother with it. They think it doesn’t happen, but it does.”
Take Back the Night is an international event, first held in Germany in 1973 as a response to violent acts against women. The first Take Back the Night rally in the U.S. was held in 1976 as a protest against pornography and the violent and disrespectful behavior that it encourages against women.
Participants of the event, mostly women, set out on a candlelight march that wound around the Mahoney/Pearson parking lot, circled Lake Osceola [Lake-O], cut behind the Rat and finally ended back in front of the UC.
“I think it’s great that we passed almost everywhere on campus,” Erica Givens, freshman, said. “Even the people that weren’t taking part had to have seen us and take notice of the cause we were trying to support.”
“It really helps to spread the word,” Givens said.
Marchers regrouped along the path between Hecht and Stanford, and many of the blown-out candles were re-ignited in the midst of chants of “Hey hey ho ho, date rape has got to go go.”
Back at the Rock, participants settled down to listen to speeches, poems, songs and stories before the microphone was opened up to anyone who wanted to come forward and share personal thoughts and experiences on rape or violence.
“I think the most important part was the open mike,” Genny van Horn, sophomore, said. “When someone steps up to talk about her own experience, it makes it real. That’s when the emotions really come out, and it’s very touching to see.”
One UM student did come forward to tell her story. A victim of a sexual assault at age 15, her case was thrown out in court. She felt cheated that she never got to come forward and tell her story to a judge, so she wrote him a letter.
“I’m lost in a world that judges me not as a victim, but as a tainted individual,” she read.
Others came forward to read poetry, sing songs, share excerpts from books, tell stories and give statistics. Presenters included Evelina Galang, professor of creative writing, Officer Raul Pedrozo of the Coral Gables Police Department and Stanley Hannah of the Counseling Center.
“A sexual assault is reported in the state of Florida every 41 minutes,” Pedrozo said. “If only five to ten percent of assaults are reported, think of how many assaults are really happening.”
“You have to have a survival mindset,” Pedrozo said.
Organizers hope that the event helped raise awareness and will continue to do so in the future.
“We hope students, both male and female, learn about sexual assault and its impact on an individual’s life,” Veronica Dumas of the Counseling Center said. “We want students to understand that sexual assault is not acceptable at this university and that every student should be able to feel safe at any time, in any place.”
Kirsten Miller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org