UT Students ‘Take Back the Night’ Against Sexual Assault
By Emma Claire Ellis
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Voices Against Violence (VAV) hosted its annual Take Back the Night event on April 6 in support of its mission to end sexual assault.
The student-sponsored event is one of thousands of Take Back the Night events hosted worldwide.
VAV invited organizations with causes that intersect with the mission of Take Back the Night to set up tables and feature activities or resources for guests.
The UT crocheting club Crochet 4 a Cause was one of several participating organizations. Rhea Jain and other members displayed plush creations they knitted. She said the group usually donates items to kids in need, but decided to sell items at Take Back the Night to raise money in support of the event.
“We’ve been partnering with Voices Against Violence throughout this semester,” Jain said. “We’re selling different night and heart-themed items, and all the money will be going to an emergency fund for survivors of domestic abuse.”
The VAV Survivor’s Emergency Fund is one of many resources offered by Voices Against Violence. It gives survivors a way around financial barriers that may prevent them from seeking help, or leaving a dangerous situation.
The organization also offers different counseling programs, including help reporting assault, if needed. A report for the 2021-22 academic year shows UT’s Title IX Office received 1,173 reports involving incidents such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
Kiandra Benson, the Confidential Advocate and Peer Advocacy Coordinator for the university’s Interpersonal Violence Peer Support Program, came to Take Back the Night to educate guests on the program.
“Our services are free, they are confidential, they are for anybody who has been impacted,” Benson said. “Whether they were impacted personally, or if they know someone else who was impacted by interpersonal violence.”
Other participating organizations included Not On My Campus and SHIFT.
Not On My Campus trains peer educators to present anti-sexual assault information to their sororities, fraternities and other student organizations.
SHIFT focuses on shifting substance usage in college. SHIFT provided non-alcoholic cocktails with UT themes like ‘The Longhorn.’
Mindfulness activities set up around the room included a station to decorate potted plants and an area for bracelet making.
The Survivor Speak Out segment of the event began after the organizers asked any media and campus police to exit the room in order to ensure everyone felt safe to share their story.
Katy Redd, the university’s Associate Director for Prevention, Development and Media Relations oversees the Longhorn Wellness Center, the SHIFT office, and the Center for Students in Recovery.
“We invite anyone who identifies as a survivor to share more about their story,” Redd said.
“It’s a way to eliminate some of the silence and shame and stigma that people may be feeling about an experience they had. It’s not for everybody, speaking in front of a public audience about a traumatic experience is not the way that everybody wants to cope, but for some people it can be!”
Voices Against Violence members will run events throughout April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. They encourage supporters to wear jeans on April 26 in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault as part of the world wide event ‘Denim Day’, to help spread the message clothes do not determine consent.