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Friday, July 10, 2020

Campus

Anti-sexual assault advocates ‘Take Back The Night’


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Sexual assault victims created T-shirts to share their trauma as part of The Clothesline Project. | Taylor Marie Coleman/The Cougar

A circle of more than 50 candle flames wavered in the air as students and faculty guarded them from the wind with curved hands.

Attendees of Take Back The Night, an annual event from the Women and Gender Resource Center that aims to raise awareness of sexual violence, filled the inner clearing of Lynn Eusan Park on Wednesday night. University organizations that actively serve as allies and aid to sexual assault victims aligned in booths around the park’s stage.

After each attendee signed a petition vowing to never be a bystander of sexual assault, a drag queen performed Kelly Clarkson’s “People Like Us.”

Sexual assault survivor and Mrs. Texas 2016 Raquel Fatiuk shared her story before the crowd.

“Moving on and healing from this was so hard, especially because I still have no answers,” Fatiuk said. “I felt an immense sense of guilt for what happened to me.”

Take Back The Night is known internationally as an event and nonprofit striving to end all forms of sexual, relationship and domestic violence. More than 30 countries host rallies, marches and vigils to raise awareness and show support for victims.

“I’ve made it a goal of mine to be a voice for other survivors and to help educate people about how to support survivors so that hopefully, one day, they will feel empowered enough to share their stories,” Fatiuk said.

The LGBTQ Resource Center, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Student Feminist Organization and others were present to show allegiance. Members of WGRC passed out rape whistles and flyers advertising the Circle of 6 mobile application, designed specifically for college students’ safety.

Members of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity were also in attendance with a trifold display of their philanthropic partner, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

“We wanted to show people that fraternities are not just the typical stereotype,” said construction management junior Arturo Alaniz, who is also Alpha Sigma Phi philanthropy director. “I want people to understand that (our cause) is a lot bigger than just parties. We want to make sure people are informed and know what their resources are.”

As part of the Clothesline Project, a half-dozen colorful T-shirts with empowering messages painted onto the cotton hung between two trees in the park. Sexual assault victims created the project locally and on campus to shed light on the trauma they experienced.

Psychology freshman Sam Hughes attended the event with friends to learn more about the resources available to her.

“I wanted to be more informed about sexuality and gender and how to prevent harassment even though most of the time I feel safe on campus,” Hughes said.

Sorority and fraternity members, LGBTQ students and faculty allies formed a large circle as the vigil commenced. Individuals who experienced sexual assault were invited to step inside the circle and share their story.

After each victim’s story, the attendees shared moments of silence for reflection. The chant of the preceding march through Lynn Eusan Park was mouthed by many.

Once campus darkened at nightfall, the silence was filled with the resounding echo of “Feminists unite! Take back the night!”

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