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Victims of Abuse Share Trauma, Evoke Change

by Joshua Quintana

Semesters in Devil’s Den was transformed last Tuesday into a space where survivors of sexual, physical and mental abuse were welcomed to share their struggles, experiences and stories of survival.

Take Back the Night is an event that brings awareness to sexual assault as well as physical and emotional abuse. The event not only focuses on creating awareness but also providing a safe space for those who have fallen victim to these evils. It offers a place for them to share their stories of abuse, empowering them to move forward in a positive direction.

The Central Connecticut community showed commitment and support to Take Back the Night’s cause with help from the Women’s Center.

Alyssa Cornwall, the director of the ACABellas, certainly feels that the issue deserves to be in the forefront of discussion. She and the ACABellas performed a stirring rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You.”

“Rape culture is prevalent in our society. I’m glad that we could bring light to this issue on campus and in our society,” said Cornwall. “Everyone in the ACABellas is happy to use the fame that we’ve earned to bring this issue out in the open.”

Also showing commitment to the cause of Take Back the Night was Residence Life, all of the resident halls and their councils, Student Wellness and Conduct, Student Activities and Leadership, the CCSU Police Department and the Women’s Center.

The event also garnered the participation of Natasha M. Pierre, Attorney at Law for the Office of the Victim Advocate. Pierre has been involved since the first Take Back the Night at the University of Connecticut 20 years ago.

“Every campus always has room for improvement and we live in a culture where rape is acceptable,” said Pierre. “We are beginning to move forward as a culture and as a campus. Central has a climate to start fixing that problem.”

Present at Take Back the Night was the University’s Director of Student Conduct Christopher Dukes as well as Sgt. Jerry Erwin representing the CCSU Police.

“There is a lot that CCSU has done before the legislature decided to act,” said Dukes. “We started back in 2003 and since then we’ve been fully funded in regards to Crisis Training and Counseling. We continue to train to be better to handle this very serious issue.”

“You know, it might not seem like it sometimes, but under this uniform we’re fathers, we’re mothers, we’re average people. We care about this community and we want everyone to know that they shouldn’t be afraid to come forward,” said Erwin.

Sgt. Erwin recounted a tale of when he first started, “There was this girl who had an abusive boyfriend. He made her feel like scum. Thanks to her coming forward, we were able to get the strength to leave. She got the counseling she needed, and now she teaches here at CCSU and got her Master’s degree.”

“It was amazing,” said Gretchen Marino, who helped organize the event. “The amount of survivors who got up and told their stories were amazing people.”

What made the night all the more compelling was listening to the stories. The tales of abuse from loved ones and strangers alike made Take Back the Night as real as it it could possibly be.

The daunting thing about sexual assault is that it can happen to anyone. It is not something one can expect or look out for often times until it’s too late.

“The event went really well,” said Zoe Grant, SGA Senator At-Large who is also currently running for Resident Senator. “It was important for people to share their stories so people can understand the different ways that sexual assault can occur.”

When Grant took the stage to tell those in attendance about how she was assaulted, she spared no details. She described how she was powerless to stop what was happening and how people made excuses for the assault. She was blamed for being a white girl in the wrong part of town, with accusers saying that she was, in essence, asking for it. She concluded her nightmare tale by saying that even though it was by far the worst thing that had happened to her, she feels empowered.

“For me, it’s a healing process. The more I get it out, the more I’m a survivor. It helps people to stop feeling like victims and start feeling like survivors,” said Grant.

Take Back the Night is one of the most important events that occurs on campus. This event and others like it bring everyday people out of the shadows, making themselves advocates who transcend the word “survivor.” The courage it takes to recount the traumas that these people had to endure makes them into the best examples of what this campus has to offer.

If you or anyone you know is involved in an abusive relationship on campus, call the CCSU Police or go to the Women’s’ Center located on the second floor of the Student Center. You deserve better. You are better. Get the help you need to be free of abuse.