Over 100 students participated in Rebels Against Sexual Assault’s “Take Back the Night,” last night in the Grove as the concluding event of the organization’s calendar for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
This annual event takes place in over 30 countries and 800 communities and promotes awareness of sexual assault to increase its prevention and to educate students and community members about the resources available for sexual assault survivors.
Various campus and community organizations were present to promote different services they had for sexual assault survivors. Participants also marched around the campus and chanted for an end to sexual violence.
Sam Cox, president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault, said he thought the night went well and that he wants to increase sexual abuse prevention by encouraging survivors to report their experiences to law enforcement officers or to other campus entities, such as the Title IX office.
“I want to encourage people to speak out about their experiences,” Cox said. “I just want people to know they have a platform and a voice.”
Bud Edwards, director of the University Counseling Center, said he comes to the event every year because he believes this is a way for him to try to create a safer university and to promote the services offered by the counseling center.
“We run a group that’s geared toward survivors of sexual assault,” Edwards said. “We offer a lot of training around stress management, whether it’s (caused by) a distant or recent event. The aftermath of sexual assault has all sorts of ramifications, all of which are very stressful.”
Oxford Police Department Major Jeff McCutchen was also in attendance to let students know the police department stands with them to put an end to sexual violence.
McCutchen said the police department deals more with the criminal aspect of sexual assault but does try to help people know about other services that are available to them, such as the “Safe Site” on the Oxford Square.
“If you come to us in the tent and say ‘I need resources,’ we don’t care if you’re under the influence, we don’t care if you’re a minor and we don’t care if there’s other criminal issues going on,” McCutchen said. “That’s your safe spot to come and get away from a bad situation.”
McCutchen also said a long-term goal of OPD’s is to form a task force with other agencies such as UPD and the Ole Miss Violence Prevention Office.
Title IX Coordinator Honey Ussery also spoke about the services she offers as well as the importance of being a responsible bystander and, if necessary, intervening to prevent sexual assaults.
“I can tell you that we’re working really hard,” Ussery said. “We have a lot of folks on campus that want to keep you safe, but we really need your help, too.”
Several students shared their stories of sexual assault and the struggles they’ve experienced.
“When I was in fifth grade, I was sexually assaulted by a friend of mine,” freshman Anna Hayward, a member of Rebels Against Sexual Assault said. “And that’s why I joined RASA. I wanted to help break the stigma that it’s not some scary person in the bushes that holds a knife to your throat. Sometimes it’s the people you trust the most. And if you have experienced that, it’s really hard to get over.”
The event ended with students participating in a glow stick vigil to represent both those who have been affected by sexual assault and those who support the cause.