By KYRA KETCH
As the Bell Tower struck noon on Friday, April 15 students and faculty across campus made their way to Ball Circle. Decked out in brightly colored shirts and smiles, friends greeted and embraced one another. Then, without skipping a beat, all who had gathered joined hands and formed a circle. In the center stood the President of PRISM, Rachel Tiemann, who thanked those who had come and explained what it was they were gathered there for.
Day of Silence is a national day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. Since the first Day of Silence event held at University of Virginia, thousands of middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities commemorate the day each year.
According to the organization Stomp Out Bullying, 9 out of 10 LGBT students reported being harassed and bullied last year. The same study showed that over one-third of LGBT students were physically assaulted and about 2/3 of LGBT students reported having been sexually harassed at school because their sexual orientation or gender identity are different than those of heterosexual students.
In honor of the LGBT youth who have been affected by this bullying, those who had joined the circle were asked to participate in a moment of silence. After a short yet somber 60 seconds, Tiemann invited everyone to join PRISM for their annual Breaking the Silence barbeque. What is unique to PRISM’s Day of Silence is the focus on breaking the silence rather than recreating it. The club turns the day into a celebration of LGBT culture and time to feel accepted by one’s peers.
Leise Crandall, a first-year student and club secretary experienced her first UMW Day of Silence last week.
“I’ve only ever participated in high school day of silences which were much smaller in scale and we were often belittled.” Crandall said. “Here, most members of the campus community were supportive and kind and it was pretty empowering to be a part of.” Crandall also shared what Day of Silence means to her.
“To me, it’s a way for the community and those who support us to come together in protest and solidarity to make sure that, in years to come, others like us don’t have to.” Crandall said. “It’s been so many years of the f-slur and homo used as insults, of queer children committing suicide, and of physical abuse at the hands of those who refuse to be accepting and we are trying to change that.”
Junior Sarah Heisey has been a member of PRISM since her freshman year.
“It’s important to me that at UMW we hold a moment of silence for people affected by anti- LGBT bullying, violence, and harassment, but also take this day to end the silencing faced by our community. We celebrate who we are, loud and proud,” Heisey said.
Day of Silence is an important event here at UMW; it is a day of unity and pride, a day that welcomes students, faculty and community members alike to call UMW home.