Survivors of abuse take back their stories

By Liv P. Fernandes & Katie Peters1851 Staff & Arts Editor

Content Warning: domestic and sexual violence

Take Back the Night was held on Nov. 15 in de Witt hall by Assistant Professor of Justice Studies Karin Raye, and her CJ303: Domestic Violence Advocacy course. Campus Police, Peer Health Educators and Lasell Athletics also lent themselves to the cause. Men’s baseball, lacrosse and rugby helped with set up and takedown. Counselors from Voices Against Violence and REACH Beyond Domestic Violence were present and hosted a room upstairs after the event. Survivors of abuse were given the opportunity to share their story and the community was invited to listen and learn.

This event was centered around survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. It’s “designed to honor and amplify voices,” said Raye. It is a “student-driven, student-centered and student-motivated” gathering of supportive and compassionate individuals.

“It is an opportunity for us to create a safe space to share stories of trauma and send a strong and cohesive message that we, as a caring community, see, hear and support the survivors on our campus,” said Raye.

An outpouring of attendees, both sitting and standing, filled the room before doors were set to open. The theme of the event was to “listen, connect and support” to the survivors and participants, according to Raye. An awareness video started the event, compiled by the spring 2019 CJ335: Sexual Violence Advocacy course. Students both past and present, along with many of our Division III athletes were featured, with the message that “…anyone can be a survivor. It’s on us.” The video included the message in multiple languages.

It can be difficult to find safe spaces to tell their stories because some survivors do not want to or feel they can’t report their experience. This event was not subjected to Title IX mandated reporting, making it easier for students to share their stories without risk of repercussions. However, there was an inclusion of knowing the availability of our Title IX Coordinator Jennifer O’Keeffe, and other off-campus resources. “You’re not alone but half the time, more than half the time, it can be truly difficult to tell anyone you’re a survivor,” one survivor who shared their story said to The 1851 Chronicle, “Survivor spaces are yours to utilize whether you’ve told your story or

not, you don’t owe anyone your history.” In support of the speakers, Raye asked that clapping be replaced with snapping, and for the audience to be present with the survivors. Recording or photographing the event was prohibited. Sticky notes lined the walls nearby, allowing guests to write messages of support for the speakers, the audience or for others in the room. “It [was] an opportunity for us to create a safe space to share stories of trauma and send a strong and cohesive message that we, as a caring community, see, hear and support

the survivors on our campus,” said Raye. In addition to written support, CJ303 students led self-care activities throughout the night during intermissions to help the audience process and adjust to the heavy atmosphere of the room. Exercises consisted of naming two things that made one happy and naming two places that made one feel safe to nearby attendees.

During a longer break, soothing live jazz music was played by Q and Band. These self-care activities were helpful to both speakers and audience members, reducing the risk of vicarious trauma, or experiencing someone else’s trauma as one’s own after hearing about it. The night was concluded with a performance by senior Emmy Jean-Louis.

From the crowd, senior Krista Roman said the event “brings awareness and gives people affected by [sexual and domestic violence] to say it. When you get it off your chest, it makes a world of difference.”

Senior Rosa Gomez said, “it shows how common these issues are and how many community members and students are all reminded of dealing with something. We all have our traumas and stories.”

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