By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Students, faculty and Fredericksburg-area organizations brought together their passion and resources for “Take Back the Night,” a national movement meant to bring awareness to sexual violence.
The event, which took place on Wednesday, April 8, began at 7 p.m. and was housed in the Information and Technology Convergence Center’s Digital Auditorium. A march at the beginning of the event, originally meant to take place outside of Lee Hall, was cancelled due to the rain.
“Take Back the Night” events have been held at universities and communities in 30 countries, and seek to bring attention to victims of sexual violence, as well as invite a dialogue about preventing future violence.
During the event, representatives from The Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault spoke about the organization’s purpose and services, and a keynote speaker, detective Alex Cameron, described working personally with victims of sexual assault.
The event then opened the floor for students to share their own stories regarding sexual violence, be it instances where they were personally affected or where they knew someone who had been a victim.
According to junior psychology and special education double major Haley Breskin, providing a platform for people affected by sexual violence is an issue she is invested in.
“[This is] definitely something that I am very interested in,” said Breskin. “For people who have been through sexual assault, having the opportunity to have a voice is important to me.”
The UMW campus and RCASA continued to draw awareness to “Take Back the Night” by displaying hand decorated t-shirts outside of Ball Circle.
The display, called the “Clothesline Project,” was hosted by a number of UMW and community organizations in addition to RCASA, including Empowerhouse, UMW’s Student Anti-Violence Educators and UMW’s chapter of Psi Chi. The goal of the t-shirts was to spread awareness about sexual violence, and they were created by victims of sexual violence or those with loved ones affected by sexual violence.
The t-shirts were hung on Wednesday, April 8 and Thursday, April 9, with RCASA tabling in front of the clothesline on April 8. The clothesline featured dozens of t-shirts with illustrations and messages, ranging from personal accounts of sexual assault to encouragement for others affected.
According to Ray Tuttle, director of the Office of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility, the Clothesline Project was a powerful way to communicate the effects of sexual violence to students and faculty.
“We thought it was an excellent way to bring increased attention to the issue of relationship violence in a visually effective manner,” said Tuttle.
Students were equally passionate about spreading awareness of Take Back the Night and the Clothesline Project. Sara Hickey, a senior psychology major, was involved in the committee that organized Take Back the Night and the Clothesline Project.
Hickey said the committee, which included representatives from RCASA, Alpha Mu Sigma, Empowerhouse and the Office of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility, and the work each member did to make the event a success inspired her.
“I was really surprised at what goes into Take Back the Night,” said Hickey. “It’s such a sensitive event that it’s cool how much goes into it.”
The event and its message made an impact on Hickey. According to Hickey, sexual assault survivors not only exist on other college campuses, but at UMW as well.
“Things like this show you that it does exist, that it has an impact on [the victim’s] life,” said Hickey. “Having survivors speaking…and their peers speaking out. It’s not just that experience that other campuses have, but it’s on our campus too.”
*Photo taken from UMW Take Back the Night 2014.