Break the silence, end the violence

UB Take Back the Night event gives voice to sexual violence survivors

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Students and community members held a moment of silence Wednesday night in the Student Union lobby. They came together to speak out against sexual violence and work together to address issues pertaining to sexual violence.

To commemorate UB’s Sexual Violence Prevention Week, the Gender Institute and Student Association hosted Take Back the Night –– a march and candlelight vigil to give voices to sexual assault survivors.

Roughly 24 students attended the event, which started with students decorating and illuminating bags to help light the way as they marched from the Student Union to Baird Point.

Once at the Baird fire pit, participants were able to make s’mores as they milled about the bonfire sharing their stories and bonding as a community.

Without directly voicing their experiences, students were able to write their traumas on pieces of wood and throw them into the bonfire. 

According to UB’s annual security and fire safety report, there were nine forcible sexual offenses reported in 2017. After University Police investigations, only one of the nine cases came back with insubstantial evidence. Six of the forced sex offenses in 2017 took place in university residence halls. The number of offenses has remained consistent for the past three years, with 10 forcible sex offenses in 2015 and eight in 2016.

UPD’s monthly Clery reports, a federally mandated collection and publication of campus security and crime statistics, indicate there have been seven sexual violence reports made this year until Sept. 20.

Anna Tschopp, a sophomore psychology major, attended the event as both a survivor and an ally.

“Marching is a sign of solidarity,” Tschopp said. “It shows victims that there are people out there who love and support them. They aren’t alone and I think events like this are the reason so many people know that.”

SA Vice President Anyssa Evelyn encourages student participation in Sexual Violence Prevention Week because it helps struggling students find resources while under protection of anonymity.

“As a student government, we are really trying to give students who have experienced forms of sexual violence, assault, domestic violence a space to speak up,” Evelyn said. “I think it can be intimidating when you don’t feel like you have support. This is such a huge university. As an orientation leader, something that we emphasized to students was that you need to find your space.”  

The name “Take Back The Night” originated in Belgium in the early 1960s with protests against sexual violence and violence against women. 

TBTN is a recognized event in more than 36 countries, spanning 800 communities. The theme throughout all of these events is community engagement in protests against sexual violence and voicing support for victims.

SBI President Jennifer Schechter decided to do something different with this year’s TBTN event, for a more interactive and engaging environment where participants can share their own experiences. 

“For UB, it is a way for all students to come together to recognize that this is something that happens and we are working towards ending and preventing sexual violence,” Schechter said. “Having it in the Student Union is really important because we wanted to engage all students in this kind of awareness of the topic. I think it’s really important because we want to break the stigma.”

The goal of the event, according to Trent Bero, the director of health and safety services, was to have a more interactive event where the attendees were able to share and express their opinions on sexual violence and what the community can do to help combat it.

The UB Men’s Group and The Student Survivor Advocacy Alliance co-sponsored the event. The groups brought “End Dating Violence” stickers, purple domestic violence awareness ribbon stickers and information on upcoming sexual violence prevention workshops to the event.

Sharon Rudy is a staff writer at the UB Spectrum and can be reached at news.desk@ubspectrum.com