The University of Tennessee’s Women’s Coordinating Council hosted its annual Take Back the Night event, which raises awareness about sexual assault.
“It’s not just about the females; it’s for both male and females,” Leigh Schlactus, senior in English, said. “It’s about everyone coming out for our program and supporting the issues. A lot of the issues that affect women also affect men.”
Supporters of the event started the evening by participating in a silent walk around UT’s campus. Different sororities including UT’s service sorority, Gamma Sigma Sigma, showed their support at the event.
“We participate in Take Back the Night every year,” Lori Lynn Chapman, sophomore in advertising, said. “I went for the first time last year and I was really touched by the issue.”
After the silent walk, participants visited different support and safety organizations’ booths in the UC Ballroom.
The Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee hosted a booth at the annual event. Kelly Peters, the advocacy coordinator, said they were there to give information about the Sexual Assault Center.
“We are a staple in the community every year at Take Back the Night,” Peters said. “We are here to let college students know that there are places out there for them to get help if they need it.”
The assault center has a forensic nursing unit, which can do a physical exam up to 72 hours after the assault. They also offer therapy to victims and their family members.
After participants visited with the Sexual Assault Center and other organizations including Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE), they were invited to attend a keynote speech by Angela Rose, a survivor of sexual assault and founder of PAVE.
When Rose was 17, she was kidnapped by a stranger. He kidnapped her in her work parking lot after stalking her for almost a week. Her kidnapper was on parole for the murder and rape of a 15-year-old girl.
Members of the Women’s Coordinating Council introduced Rose by having different members walk to the front of the room in colors that represent forms of sexual violence.
Rose began her speech by telling her story and by giving a brief introduction to different forms of sexual violence. She then continued speaking about the purpose of her being at the event.
“I want this to be solution-focused. Just because we’re talking about these sad issues doesn’t mean we have to be sad tonight,” Rose said.
Rose also talked about many of the projects PAVE is currently doing in order to raise awareness about sexual violence.
Their current program, “Arts for Awareness,” is making an art project with zip tie wristbands. Rose selected zip ties because her attacker bound her hands with them.
“Zip ties used to be my trigger,” Rose said. “I can remember being in a store and seeing them and just freezing up. Now when I look at them I feel empowered and so I’m demonstrating my getting over what happened to me and turning it into something positive.”
Participants were then invited to write a word that empowers them on a zip tie. They would then wear one and make another one for a large scale piece of art.
After Rose’s speech, the audience was invited to ask her questions, which ranged from how long it took her to get over the assault to how it affected her friends.
Take Back the Night concluded with a speak out, which allowed audience members to share their experiences with assault. Two microphones were available. One was labeled “media,” allowing audience members and media to quote speakers. The other microphone, labeled “confidential,” prevented anyone from repeating what was said at the event.
Take Back the Night is one of the Women’s Coordinating Council’s biggest annual events. They hold a rush every fall for potential members in addition to other events throughout the year.