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Take Back the Night: Unimaginable power contained in simple words

| Senior Scene Editor

Tonight at 6 p.m. in Graham Chapel, Leaders in Interpersonal Violence Education (LIVE), Sexual Harassment and Rape Anonymous Helpline (SARAH), and Student Union are hosting their annual Take Back the Night event. This is an event held here at Wash. U. that happens in April, Sexual Assault Awareness month. Take Back the Night events happen all over the country. Take Back the Night gives Wash. U. a survivor-centered space for any sexual assault survivor in the Wash. U. community to share their stories. Take Back the Night is open to the entire Wash. U. community. This year, survivors were given the option to submit their stories anonymously via Google Form to be read, or to do an in-person reading. Those who did not sign up online can still sign up in-person tonight. Tonight, Lindsay Fischer, a St. Louis survivor, advocate and author, will be the opening speaker. Take Back the Night will conclude whenever individuals finish sharing their stories.

Following Take Back the Night, there will be self-care space ran by Sexual Harassment and Rape Anonymous Helpline (SARAH) in Mallinckrodt 305 (third floor of the theatre building). Multiple self-care activities will be available, such as coloring and lists of resources, and this will also serve as a space for students simply interested in debriefing or dialoguing post event.

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 1.40.50 AMIllustration by Brandon Wilburn

Some of you just read this summary and thought to yourselves, “not interested” and maybe that’s fair. Maybe you’ve been through a traumatic experience in this demographic and can’t see yourself coming out of this event “okay.” That’s okay; it’s okay. It is not your job as a survivor to share your experience. It’s not a rule; it’s not what you have to do. In this day and age, with so many amazing movements centered around survivors sharing their experiences, it might feel like everyone expects you to share, that if you don’t share you’re in some way hurting these movements. Please hear this: It is not your job, it is not your obligation, to share your traumatic experience. It is your job and your obligation to make it to the next day, anything more than that is an added bonus. You decide what’s best for you whether that be advocacy or privacy.

People handle trauma in different ways. If you’re the person that’s going to lead the brigade in empowerment through sharing, by golly, do it. Shout it from the rooftops, and make those that perpetuate this violence fear you and learn from you. If you’re the person that is going to survive and find peace by working through this experience privately, do that. Never feel obligated to share and disturb that space, unless you think that’s what’s going to be best for you. Never feel obligated to attend an event that is going to send you back to that place of pain, even if you are willing to share, if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

This event is survivor-centered, meaning that if this space isn’t right for you, then you don’t have to be in it, but the programmers are doing everything in their power to make this as comfortable for you as possible given the material being discussed.

For those of you who have not survived an experience of sexual assault or abuse and find yourselves not interested in Take Back the Night, I’d like you to question this feeling. There is an overwhelming chance that this event matters deeply to someone you care for. There is a chance that an event like this may mean the world to you in the future. Sexual assault is a pervasive issue on this campus that you should care about. Sexual assault is a pervasive issue in the world, and you should care about it. I can only imagine that hearing these stories could help you understand this or at least understand why everyone seems to care so freaking much.

I’m sure you’ve seen the flyering, and the GroupMe posts and the Facebook invites. I’m sure you liked the posts, or clicked “interested.” It’s the right thing to do: To care about other humans who have suffered or are suffering. There is something more you can do though. You can actually go. You can sit in a room full of individuals who are bearing their souls; and you can listen, you can learn and you can speak. You can be a supporter, you can be an empowerer and you can ask for help.

Thank you to the individuals who are choosing to speak at this event. Thank you to the individuals who are choosing to have someone else speak for them at this event. Thank you to the individuals who are choosing to attend this event even if they are not quite ready to speak and may never be. Thank you to the students who are choosing to attend this event as allies, as friends and as people who support, believe, advocate and stand with survivors unconditionally. Thank you to LIVE, SARAH, and Student Union for providing this much needed space.