By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
On April, 9 members of NC State’s community came together to raise awareness about an important public health concern, sexual assault. Present were members of the faculty and staff, administrators and deans, students who represented members of various fraternities and sororities, athletic teams, residence halls, military affiliations and student groups. I was blown away by the amount of sheer love and support seen that night. As an advocate who works very closely with survivors, I was proud to see that so many students truly care about ending sexual assault on campus.
One of the most powerful pieces of our Take Back the Night Event, was the Clothesline Project. This is a space where we displayed t-shirts created by survivors and allies. Many of the t-shirts were decorated with sayings like, “I am a survivor”, “You can never hurt me again”, “It was not your fault”, “You are strong”, and “You are a survivor, not a victim.” The courage displayed was beyond what I could imagine. As people passing by stopped and looked at these t-shirts, they too were struck by their profoundness. These were created by members of our campus, our pack! One group who was particularly engaged during the night’s events was the Army ROTC. They came to the event in full uniform and in formation, a sight that was truly breath taking.
A common theme heard during both the rally portion of the night and the survivor speak-out portion was the importance supporting survivors of sexual assault. Time and time again, we were reminded of the importance of creating a campus that holds perpetrators accountable and supports survivors. We challenged each other to build a strong campus community where rape jokes aren’t made and, when they are, they are quickly stopped, where survivors feel safe to reach out to staff members to share their stories and make reports, where students feel empowered enough to know how to help survivors of sexual assault, and where we are all knowledgeable about bystander intervention skills.
I must admit that I left the event with a full heart, not because I was saddened by what I had heard, though I most definitely was, but more because I was immensely proud! I was so incredibly filled with love and pride for not only my campus, but for the survivors who were brave enough to share their stories and for each and every survivor that I have ever worked with. When I work with survivors, or when I looked in the eyes of the survivors speaking on stage, I saw just that--a survivor. Not a victim; never a victim!
The point of this event was not only to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses, but more importantly, I feel, to give survivors and allies a space where they can speak about their experiences: the fear, the shame, the guilt, the silence, the pain, the pride, the power, the strength, and the growth. I am really proud that we were able to create this safe space for students to gather and speak the truth and share their stories. It is my hope that during this night, during this process, that we helped survivors heal as much as we raised awareness!