Breaking the silence; Students take back the night

By on April 24, 2012
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Student, faculty and staff lead a march and candlelight vigil against sexual assult as part of the national Take Back the Night ovservances on Tuesday, April 17, 2012. Houston McDuffie/Staff Photographer

“Shatter the silence and stop the violence.”

The message was spoken loud and clear during the annual “Take Back the Night” events, which took place last Monday, April 16 in the Alumni Auditorium.

Several students, faculty members and others gathered to discuss sexual and domestic violence and the personal experiences of those in attendance.

The event brought together organizations such as Rape Response, the Women’s Center, Student Life and the Residence Hall Association in an attempt to “shatter the silence” of rape, particularly on college campuses.

Debbie Morgette, Assistant Director of Student Engagement, addressed the crowd to explain the importance of the night.

According to Morgette, a woman is raped every two minutes in the United States and every 21 hours on some college campus.

“A woman is physically abused every 9 seconds in the United States. That is why we are here,” she said before introducing Meg McGlamery, Director of Sexual Assault Support Services at the Crisis Center and keynote speaker for the night.

McGlamery spoke on the importance of speaking out and taking a stand against rape and welcomed any audience member who wished to share the story of how he or she had been affected by sexual or domestic abuse.

“Rape and sexual violence have been so closely associated with sex,” said McGlamery.

“Historically and culturally, we have made it to be the survivor’s fault and made it seem that they could have done something to prevent it or that they caused it in some way.”

She claims that is one reason why breaking the silence of rape is so difficult for some.

“I’m seeing change happen, which is really exciting,” she said. “We’re seeing an increase in men reporting, when the population who are least likely to come forward has been the male population.”

“Take Back the Night is a way to bring it to light,” said Morgette. “To bring the subject matter out of the darkness and into the light. We have got to talk about it, because if we don’t talk about it, it’s like the person who is impacted by violence is at fault.

“When they keep it to themselves, all kinds of things can come from that. Alcohol, drug use, cutting, all kinds of negative things,” she continued. “Having these programs brings it too light and we have to talk about it.”

According to McGlamery, her passion for the awareness of sexual violence developed in college and continued through graduate school.

“The thing that really solidified it though was when I visited a college,” she said. “There was a student on campus who was raped by another student and the administration did very little, the minimum. She had class with her perpetrator.

“It’s very important that the survivor knows that no one deserves to hurt this way,” stated McGlamery.

In addition to Take Back the Night, participants gathered in a circle for a candlelight vigil in the RLC and observed a moment of silence for all those impacted by violence.

Speakers at the event also discussed The Clothesline Project, a visual display of t-shirts decorated by those who have been impacted by sexual and domestic violence.

“The Clothesline Project was started in 1990 by a group of women who had experienced sexual violence,” said Morgette. “Different t-shirt colors mean different things. If you were impacted by sexual violence or know someone who has been, you can express your feelings toward it on a t-shirt.”

According to Morgette, UAB always combines Take Back the Night with The Clothesline Project, one following the other.

“On college campuses, there’s been a huge movement,” said McGlamery. “The ‘Dear Colleague Letter’ challenges our college campuses on how to handle prevention of and response to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and sexual violence.

“UAB has really taken the lead in ensuring that their students have opportunities for education as well as training on how to respond to this appropriately,” continued McGlamery.

“We want to not only help prevent sexual violence or intimate partner abuse, but also want to provide assistance and support to students who are impacted by it,” said Morgette. “We will continue to educate students, staff and faculty on issues regarding sexual violence and other gender-based harassment.”

Richard Parrish
Staff Writer
riparris@uab.edu

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