By Chloe Miller ’14
The chant “If you see something, do something” resonated through the library and across The Quad as students, faculty, and community members marched during Trinity’s 12th annual “Take Back the Night” last Thurs., April 5. Take Back the Night is a national campaign to prevent and raise awareness about sexual and relationship violence.
Take Back the Night is organized primarily by Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) and the Women and Gender Resource Action Center (WGRAC). Co-Coordinators of SASA Mary Taliaferro ’13 and Ana Medina ’16 spearheaded this year’s program, beginning planning in January. The event is arranged into a series of performances and presentations at different campus locations, such as Raether Library, The Plaque, and the Cave Patio. This is to make sure that the message is heard not only by event attendees but the rest of the student body as well, since sexual assault is an issue that affects everyone.
The event began on the Cave Patio with introductions of Trinity’s Sexual Assault Response Team. The emcees of the event, Oludare Bernard ’14 and Adolfo Abreu ’15, acknowledged that some program material might be emotionally sensitive or triggering for survivors and other audience members, and encouraged students to utilize the specially trained individuals on campus, including Chaplain Allison Read, Associate Dean of Students Chris Card, Director of WGRAC Laura Lockwood, Hillel House Director Lisa Kassow, Associate Dean of Students Ann Reumann, and many others. Alix de Gramont ’15 also spoke about her rewarding experience in training to be a sexual assault counselor at the YWCA. Bernard and Abreu then led a silent march from the cave Patio to the steps of the library, honoring survivors of sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and stalking.
President James F. Jones then spoke briefly, stressing the importance of this awareness on a global level with a story of a young girl in Afghanistan. Students huddled together against the wind as Associate Head Football Coach Lew Acquarulo shared his story and involvement with the issue. Acquarulo referenced his college experience “not so long ago,” but said that dialogue on sexual assault awareness was nearly nonexistent. He acknowledged being a passive bystander in many situations as a college student, and has taken an important role as leader of the Male Ambassadors, a campus organization dedicated to raising awareness among males, who make up a majority of sexual violence perpetrators.
Mercy Ward ’15 then shared a moving story of a long-since graduated Trinity student, who was drugged and raped during her freshman year at Trinity. The student repressed the memories of her rape for three years before finally admitting to herself and others what had happened. Sexual assault can cause long-lasting trauma and survivors can be affected in many ways, such as depression, slipping grades, and other problems. Luckily, the student was grateful for many resources on campus who helped her come through not as a victim, but a survivor.
Throughout the night, the speakers referenced “blue dots,” which are easy and helpful ways to step in when signs of a sexual assault may take place. Bernard and Abreu encouraged those in attendance to be aware of when they or their friends may be put in a compromised situation and need to distract, delay, or defuse the situation. These include simple actions such as saying to a drunk friend, “Let’s go get some pizza,” or, “Come dance to this song with me.” Lockwood stressed in her introduction that those who are too drunk, passed out, asleep, or otherwise incapacitated cannot give consent for any sexual act, whether it be kissing, touching, or penetration of any kind. The theme of “if you see something, do something” came from these simple steps that any student on campus should be able to exercise in order to help out a friend or stranger.
“If students remember just one or two of these examples and feel empowered to act next time they observe a dangerous situation, then we accomplished a huge feat,” said Lockwood on the Blue Dot Campaign, a new addition this year.
The group of about 100 carried this chant as the event moved from Raether Library to the Plaque, attracting passing students long the way. Here, Director of Student Activities Romulus Perez shared some chilling statistics from a Neuroscience student’s senior thesis. The student had been a victim of sexual assault herself and used that experience to study the effect of sexual assault on the brain. She pointed out that all of the survivors she studied and interviewed showed symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he shared statistics about the number of rapes and assault that go unreported.
Quirks member Margaret Nolan ’14 noted that, “It was great to see so many students support the cause. Sexual assault is an uncomfortable subject to talk about, and that it why it is so important to make sure that those who have been affected don’t remain silent!”
After some emotional testimony, the event took a turn for the uplifting with performances by some of Trinity’s celebrated groups. The Quirks sang “Sigh No More” and the Dischords performed “A Change is Gonna Come.” Back at the Cave Patio, the Shonda Steppers performed a lively dance and event participants performed a Bystander Intervention skit to put some of the blue dots’ advice to practical use. The event wrapped up with some introductions to other organizations that seek to put an end to sexual and power-based violence such as Planned Parenthood and the One Billion Rising Campaign. An exciting finish was a flash-mob dance called “Break the Chain,” which featured 45 students and faculty who first performed the flash mob in February at the Legislative Office Building in downtown Hartford. The event’s organizers had the idea to end on a positive, powerful note coupled with a reading of the poem “Rising,” by Eva Ensler.
Despite the wind chill, the 12th annual Take Back the Night was a rousing success. The message was heard loud and clear across campus and attendees learned valuable skills to help prevent sexual assault in the future. The event was both inspirational and informative, and is instrumental in changing the campus environment on such a relevant and sensitive issue.