Voices Against Violence holds event in support of sexual assault survivors

Nancy Huang

Voices Against Violence teamed up Wednesday night with multiple student organizations for Take Back the Night, an event designed to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault.

The annual event included free food, performances, an interactive art installation, a resource fair and an open-mic opportunity for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories. 

Katy Redd, assistant director for prevention and outreach at the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said Take Back the Night is intended to create a community of survivors and allies.

“I think we’d want people to walk away understanding that there are survivors in our midst and for survivors to feel really empowered knowing that there are resources and people to support them,” Redd said. “The UT community really cares about them, and we’re here for them.”

Counselors were in attendance to talk to anyone who may have been upset by the testimonies. The event also had self-care stations where participants could contribute to an interactive art piece, get free food and find out more about resources on campus.

Ebony Stewart, a spoken word poet who was the keynote speaker, said the most important part of the event was the ability to talk about trauma. 

“The idea of taking back something that was taken from you [is important],” Stewart said. “[So is] the acknowledgment of consent, the acknowledgment of responsibility, and holding each other and letting each other tell our stories.”

April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, and Take Back the Night is one of the events scheduled to raise awareness about sexual violence. VAV will also host multiple workshops and a relationship talk next week.

Gabi Velasco, an international relations freshman who volunteered for the event, said the best part of the event was the open-mic portion.

“There’s a forum for survivors to share their stories in a very safe and inclusive way,” Velasco said. “If people are uncomfortable with having their name and face up [on stage], they can submit their stories anonymously. It’s just a very inclusive environment.” 

18.5 percent of female undergraduates and 5 percent of male undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin reported having experienced sexual assault by force or incapacitation since the time of their enrollment, according to a 2015 report by the Association of American Universities.