Dear survivor, we believe you.
For too long, victims have been silenced, shunned, ridiculed, judged.
Perpetrators have been enabled, lightly scorned, justified, “only buzzed.”
Media investigates, the audience pleas, while abusers enjoy their daily lives and victims ask why me?
The clock is ticking, the time to act is now.
The #MeToo movement is growing, but Kavanaugh is still on the prowl.
When will enough be enough? When will no actually mean no?
Take Back the Night is Springfield’s silent resistance.
Survivors, let them know.
Tuesday evening began with cheerfulness. The crowd was chatty, unity was profound, the movement was alive. Everyone lit each other’s candles and huddled in small circles preparing for the silent walk to each residence hall, where one brave individual would step forward and share their own personal story with abuse, or recite a poem in supportive demonstration.
Take Back the Night [TBTN] is an annual event put on by Students Against Violence Everywhere [S.A.V.E.], to recognize those who have suffered from all forms of abuse. Although violence has various identities, sexual abuse/harassment is the most common among the students who attend and share their stories each year.
According to RAINN, an American nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, at the undergraduate level, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through violence, physical force, or incapacitation. An even smaller percentage report it to the authorities or seek medical attention or assistance from victim services.
Sexual assault is problematic not only on college campuses, but nationwide. It has been addressed frequently in the media as of late, which has sparked protests, powerful movements, and increased overall awareness on the subject. However, no matter how much individuals support the victims on television, they are still distanced from the painful reality that victims must endure.
TBTN reminded the Springfield community that perpetrators are not lurking in the shadows or hiding behind TV screens. They are friends, teammates, and lab partners. They come from home. Problems of the world seem so far away until they become one’s own. Sexual assault is real, and so is the pain and emptiness that it leaves behind with each one of its victims. For every candle that was lit Tuesday night, a supporter was present, willing to acknowledge this painful reality, and take part in the silent resistance.
“Silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Maddie Muccino, senior and one of the directors for Vagina Monologues. “We are always looking for a response or feedback but sometimes [silence] is more powerful.”
Even without the buzz of chatter, the atmosphere among the crowd was warm, intimate, solemn. At each stop, students respectfully created a semi-circle around the speaker like a Greek chorus, unified in their sadness, motivated by their hopefulness.
John Poitras, an e-board member of S.A.V.E. and first time attendee, played his guitar and read a poem that evening. At the close of the event, it was clear everyone had been impacted in some way, but the energy was heavy and filled with melancholy.
“It doesn’t feel great being at this,” said Poitras. “It doesn’t feel good hearing everyone’s stories, and it shouldn’t,” he said. “[But] I think it’s amazing that more people are becoming aware.”
The crowd was a blend of various different groups and teams including rugby, ultimate frisbee, lacrosse, Vagina Monologues members, and many others. It was the biggest male turnout Take Back the Night has had in years. Stigmas are starting to break.
“As men, we’re supposed to be [masculine] and macho all the time, but it’s not like that,” explained Poitras. “Normally people think [victims are] all female, but [abuse] is dealt with on both sides in many situations.”
Those that wanted to discuss anything personal or needed to debrief went to a conference room in the Campus Union with head advisor and counselor Gary Enright.
Angry. Numb. Soul-Stirred. Frustrated. Empowered. Overwhelmed. Supported.
These are just a few words that went around the room after being asked how they felt. Some students were teary-eyed, others deep in thought. The night was emotional and many left thinking differently than when they arrived.
Healing is not linear. Trauma is a unique experience for everyone. It is a journey that must be respected. Remember that you’re a survivor. Know that we believe you.
Springfield College Department of Public Safety: (413) 748-5555
Administrator on Call: (413) 748-5555
24/7 support for emergency residential changes and access to support services
YWCA Sexual and Domestic Violence Hotline: (413) 733-7100 (confidential)
24/7 hotline to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence
Medical advocacy: Providing survivors support while at the hospital following a violent incident
Legal advocacy: Accompany survivors to court and assist with restraining orders
Springfield Police Department: (413) 787-6302
Springfield College Counseling Center: (413) 748-3345 (confidential)
Provide students with free and confidential counseling by appointment Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (excluding holidays).
The counselor-on-call can be reached after business hours by calling the Department of Public Safety and asking for the counselor-on-call.
Baystate Medical Center: (413) 794-3233 (confidential)
Mercy Medical Center: (413) 748-9000 (confidential)
If you’d like to join SAVE you can email the organization at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtsey of Sam Leventhal