By: Anna Merezhko, March 31, 2017
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness month, DelVal hosted a “Take Back the Night” event to raise awareness of sexual abuse. As students shuffled to find seats, a video came on about tea. The message of the video was simple: you wouldn’t force tea onto a person who was passed out, so why would you have sex with someone who is?
The video formulated a basic argument that seems to be lost on some people. It seems silly to have to liken sexual abuse to something so simplistic, but unfortunately, this point has to be made. In no way is it ever ok to force someone into doing something that they don’t/can’t consent to, be it tea or sex.
Dr. McCall came up and thanked all the students for coming, then drew everyone’s attention to the “Clothesline Project.” The walls of the auditorium were lined with tables displaying white t-shirts. Each t-shirt held a message. Some t-shirts told stories of sexual assault, while others had messages that condemned it. McCall explained that students were welcome to grab a marker and write their own message about sexual assault, as these shirts would be hung up around campus.
After a message from Dean Tim and (N)etwork (O)f (V)ictim (A)ssistance, Dr. Suzanne Stutman, the keynote speaker, came up.
She started her speech with a poem called “Take Back the Night.” “She cries out to me, the child within myself,” she read. It was about the abuse she had experienced as a child. She talked about the fear and anger she developed as a result of that abuse and how she healed.
Stutman explained the healing power of caring. She decided to try to make her world as bright as possible by helping others, so she became a teacher. When she started writing poetry, she realized that she had been teaching the voices of others for so long. It was time that she used the power of her voice.
Stutman decided to use her voice to build the power of others and encouraged the students there to empower themselves to do the same because we live in a society where victims are blamed and abusers are set free.
“Don’t believe that one person can’t make a difference,” she said, “If you change even one life, that’s already enough. It is the aloneness of the abuse which is part of what is so terrible. It isolates, it denigrates, it makes us feel that we are bad, ugly, and useless. We must march, we must protest, we must raise our voices into the darkness so that no child falls, no victims suffer in silence. In doing so, we take back the night.”
She left the audience transfixed. There was a quietness after she sat down. People talked in hushed tones as they got up to walk over the boxes of battery-powered candles. With candles in their hand, students marched out of the auditorium to the dark places around campus, symbolically lighting them and raising awareness of sexual abuse.