It’s On Us promotes sexual assault awareness with Take Back the Night candlelight walk

Students participate in the It's On Us Take Back the Night event to promote sexual assault awareness, provide support to survivors on Friday, Nov. 12. Photo credit: Patrick Mccaslin

The University of Miami’s chapter of It’s On Us, a program for sexual misconduct education and prevention, concluded their second annual Fall Week of Action on Friday night with Take Back the Night, an event hosted for students to show their support for survivors of sexual abuse.

Students held lit candles and walked around Lake Osceola and while the subject was somber, the energy of the audience was high. As persistent gusts of wind extinguished the participants’ candles, students quietly laughed and passed lighters back and forth to reignite the flames.

“Lighting the candles is something symbolic that shows we’re all together and united in something,” said Jill Ingram, an ambassador for It’s On Us and chair of Take Back the Night.

While their events provide essential advice and information on sexual health, safety and relationships, It’s On Us focuses on approaching difficult subjects in unique ways to encourage more students to attend.

On Monday through Thursday, students on their way to class could find It’s On Us tabling in the Westbrook breezeway on campus, where the first 100 students to play a short educational game on the sexual health topic of the day won free food ranging from Jamaica Kitchen to Chick-fil-A.

It’s On Us educated participants on the intersectionality of disabilities and consent on Monday, sexual health on Tuesday, the green and red flags of healthy and unhealthy relationships on Wednesday and sexual assault in the military on Thursday.

Gianna Milan, an ambassador for It’s On Us, said students had the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their relationships during Wednesday’s tabling sessions.

“Maybe there are some things people experienced back then, in previous relationships, that they didn’t think were bad and now they’re realizing through events like these that there were things about them that were wrong,” Milan said.

It’s On Us ambassadors say that they aim to provide a warm community of peers for students to engage with on topics surrounding sexual health, something particularly important to college students.

“These years that we’re in college, a lot of us are getting into a first relationship or experimenting with their sexuality,” Milan said.

On Tuesday evening, It’s On Us collaborated with the Rathskeller to focus their weekly trivia night on questions surrounding the topic of sexual health.

“I like trivia because I think it’s fun while still being educational,” said Simonne Dodge, an ambassador for It’s On Us. “There are so many people who come out to the Rat every week for trivia, so there’s already a base of people that we can give information to.”

The week of events culminated in Friday’s Take Back the Night, which included a Zoom session where UM student survivors of sexual violence spoke to groups of supporters and peers followed by a walk around Lake Osceola.

Take Back the Night references a tradition of events on college campuses that began in the ‘90s to support survivors and advocate for policies preventing sexual violence.

“For a lot of people, this is the first time sharing their story with strangers and it’s super personal,” Ingram said. “Each time, it’s so moving to hear what everyone has to say.”

It’s On Us works to support victims of sexual violence while spreading awareness on campus. One in five women and one in 16 men experience sexual assault while in college.

“The goal of It’s On Us is to provide a safe space for survivors,” Ingram said.

If interested in joining their team, fill out this application and follow them on Instagram @itsonusumiami.