I am a member of a sexual assault awareness organization on my campus called Eyes Wide Open. One of our annual events is Take Back The Night where we bring a speaker to share their experience with sexual assault and to educate students on issues pertaining to sexual violence. After the speaker's presentation we all march through campus, first silently to remember and support anyone who has been a victim of sexual violence, and then yelling and blowing whistles for all of campus to hear to "shatter the silence; stop the violence." The march is meant to bring attention to society's tendency to remain silent on matters of sexual violence and of how difficult it too often is for victims to speak up. It is a really powerful night, especially for survivors, and it is just such an empowering thing to be a part of, for me anyway.
Last year's Take Back The Night, my first time going, was the first time I stopped and acknowledged that a previous experience of mine (from many years before...seriously) was not okay, was not "normal" and, more importantly, was not my fault. So Take Back The Night is a pretty important event for me and I love getting to be a part of the organization that puts it on every year.
Our speaker this year was Katie Hnida, the first woman to ever dress and score points in a Division 1 collegiate football game. She spoke about the sexual harassment and eventually sexual violence that she was subjected to by her own teammates during her time playing to Colorado University.
I think Katie's story is particularly powerful because it speaks to not only issues of sexual violence on college campuses and the added issues that arise when athletes are involved, but also to the still all to present belief that there are certain spaces that women do not belong in. More than once when Katie tried to speak out about the harassment she was told it was something she would have to deal with if she wanted to be a woman in football, asked what did she expect; people still believe that there are certain spaces in which women should stay away from if they don't want to be harassed, and that if we try to break down those barriers we were asking to be assaulted. I think this is an aspect of rape culture that is often overlooked, so I was really excited to have a speaker who highlighted this still very present issue in our culture.
Basically Take Back The Night was awesome and Katie Hnida was awesome and also she spells her name like I do so she gets bonus points there. But seriously she was super great and I'm really glad I got the opportunity to meet her. I hope one day I can make the same kind of difference that she is making now.
(I normally make a point to look like...presentable when I know I'm going to be taking pictures but it didn't happen this time...so enjoy my "I totes just got out of class" look)