By: Katie Vulich
Candles illuminated the quad on Nov. 6 as more than 50 students participated in the first Take Back the Night event to raise awareness around ending sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse, and all other forms of sexual violence.
“Sexual assault cases, domestic violence and relationship violence gets pushed under the rug and we like to pretend that it doesn’t happen,” sophomore Cari Campbell said. “This event gives visibility and voice to those who shared their stories.”
Take Back the Night began in the 1960s in Belgium and England to protest women not being safe walking alone. Today, there have been Take Back the Night events in more than 36 countries and 800 communities.
“We are hoping to create a space of empowerment and embolden more members of our community to actively engage in creating a more inclusive campus that is free from violence or fear of violence,” Assistant Dean of Students Natasha Begin said.
Take Back the Night was a perfect way to create that space.
“I think it’s really critical that as a community we have these conversations,” senior Drew Chandler said. “As a community of care, it is important that we have events that show that we as students are supportive.”
The event opened with a prayer of boldness from the Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Helen-Grace Ryan.
After the prayer students lit their candles and marched from the quad to the Siennas, where eight anonymous stories from the Bellarmine community were read aloud. Prior to the event, boxes were scattered around campus that allowed students to anonymously submit their stories.
The stories varied in length and medium. Sophomore Jameelah Lockhart submitted a poem titled, “Never Trust a Snake.”
“It felt good to hear [the poem] read through someone else’s perspective,” Lockhart said. “It felt like people actually believe me and are listening.”
Listeners said they felt the same way.
“Everyone needs to know that things like this happen everywhere even on a small campus like Bellarmine,” senior Adam Eberhard said. “An event like this is great because we can show support and stand together to make sure sexual harassment stops happening.”
Senior Lauren Neal said felt the stories were important because they “let other people know that they aren’t alone.”
The conversation did not stop after the event concluded.
“We hope that students who want to do further work will join BraveBU efforts but will also be courageous in speaking up for this issue that impacts our entire community,” Begin said. “In the spring we will be hosting the Clothesline project, which will be a physical reminder to our campus community of the impact of violence. We would love participation and volunteers for this event.”
Bellarmine’s campus is not an exception to the norm. Sexual violence happens here. However, with more conversations like these, becoming the exception can become a reality.