The crowd stood up to form a semi-circle around the room and gave a moment of silence out of respect for all those who have been victims of sexual assault, rape, or abuse. Students looked around the room at one another, sympathizing for what some women and men have gone through in their lifetimes.
Take Back The Night is an emotional event for everyone involved, where people come together and acknowledge the issues that have been going on throughout history.
In a time when people brush off sexual violence around the world, Take Back The Night does just what the event name suggests: people everywhere reclaim a day to recognize what sexual violence has caused some individuals and speak out about these issues so everyone realizes how real they are.
April is classified as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and so it seems fitting that Kutztown University groups like the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), Heart at KU, Berks Women In Crisis (BWIC) and the Women’s Center hold this event around the ¡same time each year. These groups have put together several projects involving the awareness of sexual violence victims and survivors.
During the day on April 21, Kutztown University students participated in what is known as The Clothesline Project, where people paint t-shirts with inspiring messages to those who have experienced this form of violence. The activity represents the pain and distress victims and survivors have gone through by bleeding colorful words and images onto a t-shirt canvas. Later, these words of encouragement and reassurance are displayed for passing students and staff to notice in order to invoke a sense of understanding.
As terrible as it may be, in the past there have been incidents where other students have stripped the walls of these shirts, disrespecting the people who have struggled to regain their taken identities. It is a symbol of remembrance to those that have haunting memories, and, unfortunately, some people refuse to accept the truth, so they try to ruin an empowering night.
That same evening marks the start of Take Back The Night, where women and men alike join together to show their dedicated support and share a common sense of sorrow for the victims. After several people address the importance of sexual violence in the community, some group representatives speak about the different services on and off Kutztown’s campus. Counseling services, Berks Women In Crisis, Heart at KU, and the Women’s Center (to name a few) are dedicated to helping anyone going through an abuse related situation.
After some of the representatives give their speeches, the floor becomes open for anyone willing to open up and share their experiences in a judge-free zone. The room is transformed into a safe haven to make people feel more comfortable about speaking up. The crowd listens intently as people share their worst nightmares in front of a caring community. It takes courage, strength, and trust to stand up and tell a story that leaves you vulnerable in front of a room surrounded by unfamiliar faces that may or may not be dealing with the same issue.
Once everyone has spoken, the candlelight vigil begins to remember those who have fought for change, acceptance, and understanding. This is the time to reflect on those who could no longer fight the same battle every morning. This is when the crowd is faced with another person’s demons. This is for the victims who go about their days, feeling worthless and confused because someone else violated their humanities. This is dedicated to the people who blame themselves for what happened.
At the end of Take Back The Night, these same individuals realize they are not alone. They are not to blame, and they have come a long way. This is where people understand they have the best support system that will do anything to help. These people know they are worth more than how someone once made them feel, and these human beings are survivors. This event shows people how to overcome their challenges, and, when all of it is said and done, we must remember to shatter the silence, and stop the violence.