Aggies Rally Against Sexual Violence During Take Back the Night
Texas A&M University students and staff came together in Rudder Plaza Thursday for “Take Back the Night,” a show of support for survivors of sexual violence where Aggies expressed their zero-tolerance policy for incidents on campus and in the community, and provided resources and information about prevention.
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), Texas A&M Health Promotion organized the event which featured speakers, an awareness walk and booths from a variety of campus and community partners.
“It cannot be understated how important events like this are for our community; bringing resources together to support survivors of sexual violence – and the friends who support them – is so critically important to the overall wellbeing of our students,” said Health Promotion Director Lauren Dorsett. “Our team has worked hard to bring campus organizations, student organizations and community partners together, and I hope that students can take away information that will help them navigate this subject with their peers.”
One of the student volunteers at the event, representing the organization SLIDE (Sophomore Leaders Impacting, Developing and Engaging), was Wesley Hillis ’24, an economics major from Cleveland, Texas, who said he came to show his support for victims of sexual assault as well as for mental health awareness.
“Although I’ve never experienced anything like sexual assault or mental health issues, I’ve seen how it can affect people, how they shut themselves away from society,” Hillis said. “And I don’t wish that on anyone. No one deserves to feel alone in a world that’s already so cold. We need to show people that there is light and people who truly care about them.”
In addition to its educational activities, last night’s event was a fundraiser for local response agencies that assist survivors of sexual violence, dating and domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking, including the Sexual Assault Resource Center of Brazos Valley (SARC), Scotty’s House, Twin City Mission Domestic Violence Services, and Unbound Bryan-College Station.
SARC Executive Director Lindsey LeBlanc joined her team at the event and said they do see more reporting of sexual violence as a result of SAAM and related awareness events, and that’s why it’s critical for campus and community members to show support.
“I think awareness events let survivors know there are services and a center to support them,” LeBlanc said. “April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, there’s a rise in demand for our services.”
The other side, she said, is prevention. “When more people are aware of sexual assault, the more they can do to prevent it. When a survivor comes forward, that can be a challenging moment for people and so having those resources that friends and family members know about is really important.”
SARC recently announced cuts to its funding beginning Sept. 1.
Campus partners on Take Back the Night included A&M Counseling & Psychological Services, University Police Department, Multicultural Services, LGBTQ+ Pride Center, Student Health Services, and Civil Rights and Equity Investigations.
Megan Woodfield, a health promotion specialist in the Offices of the Dean of Student Life, said the event is special because it’s completely student-led: “This event is a collaborative with Feminism 4 Aggies and SLIDE, so Health Promotion is helping out, but this is by students, for students. And we’re really honored to have so many Aggies out here talking about what they do so support their peers.”
Several hundred participants and passersby engaged during the two-hour event.
Student volunteer Anna Sentmanat ’23, a biomedical science major from College Station, said Take Back the Night, which is an international effort, is a monumental event “because it amplifies our voices – one survivor or advocate amidst a sea of violence normalization in our society feels hopeless and isolating, but when events like this allow us to raise our voices in unison, we can see progress being made. To support survivors and prevent sexual violence, we have to continually remember the power our voices have and never falter from engaging in open conversations.”
Learn more about how you can support victims of sexual violence and prevent incidents from ever occurring – as well as more issues touching the lives of Aggies and the local community – by visiting the Health Promotion site.
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