Students ‘take back the night’ against sexual violence
“Cougars Unite, Take Back the Night!” was just one of the chants heard Thursday night while supporters against sexual violence marched through the campus for the annual Take Back the Night event held at Lynn Eusan Park.
The event, hosted by the Women’s Resource Center, is part of a national tradition started in 1975 to raise awareness on sexual assault and violence. About 50 people attended the event, including former students and sexual assault survivors. Others attendees included the Student Feminist Organization, the LGBT Resource Center and the UH Wellness department.
Margot Forney, a graduate assistant for the wellness department, was there to provide information geared toward survivors and victims of violence.
“I think sexual assaults happen, but having events like this one helps get the word out about how to handle yourself in situations like that and how to go about being a victim,” Forney said.
The alleged sexual assault that took place on campus less than a month ago struck a nerve for Victoria Politte, a theater freshman who lives on the floor the incident occurred.
“It did give me a lot of anxiety,” Politte said. “The first week of school, as I was walking to my dorm there was a group of three guys standing around, and one of them tried to kiss me. One of them looked like the guy who was arrested, so it definitely made me worried.”
Student Feminist Organization President Laila Khalili said she attended the event to show support for the survivors of sexual violence and to empower others come forward.
“We’re here to help students navigate through the resources so they know what their rights are,” Khalili said. “We want them to know that they’re not alone.”
Jennifer Galvez, a social work graduate student and incest survivor, said she was happy she attended the event but was disappointed with the crowd turnout.
“I was expecting more people, because more should be aware and support this,” Galvez said. “For a campus of 40,000 students, there should at least be 1,000 here.”
The event concluded with a vigil for Jennifer Olivares, one of the four victims who spoke at the event. Olivares, who was abused for 21 years, advised other survivors who are silent and ashamed to not feel cast out.
“You’re not what people say you are,” Olivares said. “You’re beautiful and amazing, and you’re powerful.”