“I still struggle to tell my story.”
That was a student, wishing to remain anonymous, who spoke at Take Back the Night last Thursday, April 27. The event was aimed at acknowledging and discussing the victims of sexual and domestic abuse.
Take Back the Night is also a global organization whose primary goal is to, “create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives,” according to its website.
The University of Nevada, Reno, is just one of many homes of Take Back the Night. The organization holds hundreds of events annually in over 30 countries and has been active since the 1970s.
The event started with some time given for students to explore some on-campus tools for abuse, such as counseling and a table dedicated to writing a letter to a survivor.
Counseling can help those dealing with anything from anxiety to depression to PTSD, according to Divina Johnston, a psychology intern at the counseling department at UNR. Johnston was counseling’s representative for the University at Take Back the Night.
After students had time to explore the different resources, event organizer Jakki Duron was the first to speak to the crowd.
“Every person’s story is different,” Duron said. “Everyone has a different process of healing. Everyone had a different way of coming out to speak or not speak. All of those stories are very valid and all of those stories need to be told.”
Duron is also a member of Generation Action, an advocacy group that works to help protect funding for Planned Parenthood. She is also on the Latinx Student Advisory Board.
Duron feels that the university does not provide enough resources for programs like counseling and the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies (CASAT) to succeed in preventing abuse on campus.
“If you know me, you know I love to make the university uncomfortable,” Duron said. “We have great programs like counseling and CASAT who are trying to do something, but it is very hard when the university is not backing them.”
Duron has been a main cog in the Take Back The Night event since it began coming to campus four years ago.
“Take Back the Night has grown stronger in support [each year]. It’s incredible being able to offer a space solely to victims and survivors of interpersonal violence,” Duron said.
After Duron’s speech, she introduced a local band composed of a mother/daughter duo. They performed a variety of original songs, as well as a few covers such as Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
After they had finished their set, local model and poet Megan Signs shared her poetry with the crowd.
“It’s frustrating not having a voice because you can’t say anything,” Signs said. “When you are raped or abused, you don’t have a voice.”
Signs performed three different poems titled, “Labels,” “It’s Not Fair” and “Let Go.” All three of these poems dealt with her own experiences of abuse.
“It’s not fair that you are breathing in peace and I am starving for oxygen,” Signs read from “It’s not fair.”
After she had finished reading her poetry, the survivor speak-out began. For privacy reasons, the speakers remained anonymous.
At first, people were hesitant to come up to the microphone and speak, however, once the first speaker went up, many followed after.
“It is not right to take advantage of someone, no matter what state of mind they are in,” this speaker said.
By the end of the night, there were a handful of students who spoke before the crowd. Each one shared his or her own experiences of rape.
“I remember he thanked me after he finished,” said one of the speakers.
The crowd was silent during all of these stories. Several of the speakers were brought to tears during their turns at the microphones.
“I attempted suicide three times in one year,” another speaker said. “I do not want his apology. I want him to know I exist.”
Once the survivors had finished sharing their experiences, the night ended with a march through campus. The march went through the Knowledge Center and the Joe Crowley Student Union.
Survivors of abuse are encouraged to attend events such as Take Back the Night as well as contact Counseling Services for further guidance.
“You are loved and you are valuable to the world,” said one of the survivors. “No matter what, this is true.”
Jake Barnes can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.