Take Back The Night: How I Joined Adelphi University In Speaking Out About Sexual Violence

On April 24th Adelphi had it’s Take Back The Night event, a night dedicated to ending sexual violence of all kinds and to help “create safe communities and respectful awareness.” The event gathers everyone and anyone interested in creating a safer world for men and women alike.

One of the positive advertisements for #AUTBTN

 

My friend told me about the event earlier in the year, so when I saw the advertisements around campus, I jumped at the chance to go. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and consider myself a feminist/activist so this kind of event is especially important to me. I was thrilled to hear that Adelphi was dedicated to contributing to making our culture, especially on campus, a safer, more informed one. I always say I consider our campus to be pretty safe, but you can never be too careful when dealing with sexual assault. I have grown accustomed to being called “too sensitive” when it comes to my feelings on this topic, so to have my experiences be deemed important and worthy of a school-wide event was incredibly important to me.

We all gathered in Adelphi’s huge concert hall where we received cute little whistles/flashlights. We were handed slips of paper addressing the triggering nature of the program and that, should we or anyone else need it, there were numbers we could call and staff in the concert hall to help us cope. The event always includes a Keynote Speaker and this year featured Wagatwe Wanjuki, feminist/activist and writer for fuckyeahfeminists.com. She spoke out about her experience with sexual assault at Tufts University and her fight to raise awareness to make our campuses a safer place. Check out her website; she’s really funny and relatable as well as an important voice for fellow survivors of abuse. A member of Adelphi’s Public Safety even spoke about the importance of the event; he expressed how important it was that everyone on our campus feel safe, and they will be supported if they speak out.

The most intense as well as the most inspiring part of the event was the “Speak-Out”, in which survivors of all kinds of abuse could come up to the stage and share their experiences. It was a place where they could feel safe enough to tell their unique stories - whether for the first time or as a continued statement of their survival. In the beginning it was clear people were nervous to grace the stage -including me. I had no intention of going up even though I’ve been talking about my abuse on various blogs and the like. It never gets easier and I was just as scared to go up as if it was the first time. One guy took to the stage and shared the story of one of his past relationships. He talked about how upset he was after she told him about her history of abuse, and he pleaded with the other men in the room to be responsible and take charge of their actions. I was inspired by him and finally decided to go up. The lights on the stage were blinding and there were so many people, but I talked. I talked about my experience growing up as a survivor of sexual abuse and how sometimes it was a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I expressed that I wanted survivors and their loved ones to know that there were always people who loved you and that it’s ok to talk about what happened to you. I emphasized that as a survivor you need to do whatever you need to do to reclaim your power and this event was only the beginning. As everyone stood up, applauded me and patted me on the back, I was overcome with the support and love in the room. The boy who had spoken hugged me and thanked me, and I knew I had done right by myself by saying something. Many more survivors and their loved ones followed and each of their stories were unique and important. Some of them had never spoken about their abuse before, and they said this experience had started their healing process. It was so amazing to be a witness to so many who were finally taking control of their past and had decided in that room that it was time to speak up and be heard.

The night ended with an empowering march around campus, featuring signs, chants and general loudness as a way to fight the silence of abuse. Adelphi took back the night, and I hope every campus gets to do the same.