Take Back The Night gives survivors opportunity to listen, share experiences

Posted on Apr 12 2017 - 8:02am by Zoe McDonald
Students take a stand against sexual assault in "Take Back the Night" campaign organized by Rebels against sexual assault. (Photo by: Ariel Cobbert)

Students take a stand against sexual assault at the 2016 “Take Back The Night” campaign organized by Rebels Against Sexual assault. (Photo by: Ariel Cobbert)

Rebels Against Sexual Assault will be hosting Take Back The Night, a survivor-oriented community event as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on the Grove stage.

Take Back The Night will include speakers from the Title IX Office, the Violence Prevention Office and the counseling center. Attendees can also participate in a march around campus and a glow stick vigil. There will also be an opportunity for survivors to share their experiences either anonymously or in person. RASA is taking anonymous submissions through a form linked on its social media. Several peer educators will read the submissions.

Lindsey Bartlett Mosvick, the university’s violence prevention coordinator, said the march communicates “the visual force of people who are willing and able to stand up against sexual violence.” The glow stick vigil, she added, gives an opportunity for people to “disclose elements of their connection to the issue without having to share their entire story.” She said Take Back The Night is the most inspiring event of the year for her.

“It centers on the voices of survivors and their experiences, and others witness their strength, courage and determination,” she said. “The University of Mississippi has seen an increase in turnout the past few years, but more than that, an increase in the number of survivors who speak out and share their stories.”

Kristin Howitt, RASA’s secretary and committee head for the event, said the groups tries to make the event comfortable for everyone involved, and more people than in the past year have opted to speak out in person.

“This makes me happy that Take Back The Night and our campus in general is seen as a safe space to share your experience,” she said. “I admire the bravery of both anonymous and in-person speak outs. Survivors should only do what they are comfortable with.”

Howitt, who is also a sexual assault survivor, is one of the peer educators who will be reading anonymous accounts.

Howitt said there will be pizza, Smoothie King and Insomnia Cookies at the event.

Bartlett Mosvick said the speak out gives survivors a sense of community and also helps open people’s eyes to the issue.

“By giving survivors options on how their story is shared, the other survivors present will feel support in a way they cannot feel otherwise,” she said. “For those who only see sexual assault as a statistic, the personalizing of the stories by the survivors and their direct experiences raises awareness in a way nothing else can.”

Elizabeth Romary, who helped start RASA and served as the It’s On Us coordinator this year, said having a huge student group on campus offers survivors a safe space where they can feel comfortable, even if they choose not to talk about their own experiences. At the university, there’s been a trend of increased reporting of sexual assaults. Romary said she and other RASA members consider that a positive trend because it indicates more people are comfortable with reporting.

For survivors who chose not to report or didn’t have the opportunity, Take Back The Night’s speak out is a way for survivors to reclaim their experience and let their story out.

RASA will also hold other community events throughout the month of April, including a screening of “Yeah, Maybe, No,” an LGBTQ+ sexual assault panel and 50 Shades of Consent, a discussion about consent organized by UM Housing.

“It’s more survivor-oriented, but it’s for the whole community,” Romary said. “It’s showing survivors that we’re here for you. We’ll help you. We’ll help you in any way that we can.”