Attending the Planned Parenthood Take Back the Night event was a surreal experience. Standing among a crowd of other young women and men, I realized I had never heard stories like these – survivors of assault – shared so openly, loudly, and honestly before. Never had I physically been in a room where multiple people shared these stories, and never had I heard the voices of women intermingle together in a succession of poetry and memories that at once brought respectful silence in a crowd.
Take Back the Night was an event meant to give survivors a platform to speak out and share their stories. Candles were given out to hold while listening, and t-shirts with inspirational, hopeful, or heartfelt words written from survivors were hung behind the stage; waving like colorful flags of sorrow, joy, and promise.
It is heartbreaking that these stories, and hundreds like them, are so prevalent and continuous in our country. With the #MeToo and #Timesup movements coming and going through social media and popular conversation, it is easy to think that something soon will be done to change the current climate; or even that more people will think twice about using problematic language, or sitting by and watching an abusive relationship continue. However, it is important to keep the conversation going – the stories haven’t ended, the pain hasn’t ended, and so the fight hasn’t ended. The fight is bigger than any one person, but being made aware of signs of abuse, places to go to for help, and the options you have as a bystander or survivor are vital to changing the culture one step at a time. If you see something potentially dangerous happening, say something.
Remember that assault takes all shapes and forms. Heterosexual assault is NOT any more real than homosexual assault. Men can be abused by female partners. The couple that seems perfect from the outside may not always be.
The event ended with a breathing exercise – the count of 4 with breaths in, and 4 with breaths out while repeating I am, present here.
I am, present here
Be aware, be strong, and know you are not alone. You are loved.