As a part of Women’s Awareness Month (WAM), Tech hosted a candle light vigil for victims and survivors of sexual assault called Take Back the Night (TBTN) at the Campanile. The event was held on March 9, and featured speakers from Tech, Georgia State and alumni. They highlighted their personal experiences with sexual assault, both as survivors and secondary survivors.
“We want to spread the word that sexual assault in the community could happen to anyone whether they are male or female,” said Kelli Hunter, a third year BIO major and executive co-chair of WAM.
“I think what stood out the most to me from TBTN were the personal stories that seemed to give very shocking details of their experiences being assaulted,” said Albert Leung, third year MGT major. “I was at last year’s TBTN… so I thought I wouldn’t be as shocked as I was that first time, but it still hit me the same way.”
This year marks the 16th anniversary of the event, which seeks to honor survivors and victims of sexual assault and to inform students on its presence on college campuses across the nation.
“Before I was sexually assaulted I didn’t understand it was so common, I just hope that people understood the rate of assault and the effect it has on people,” said Liz Tans, a third-year ME student.
The event presented information about the effects and prevalence of sexual assault in the US, particularly among college students. One in six women and one in 33 men are sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Also, a person in the US is sexually assaulted every two minutes.
“To me there’s such a stigma around sexual assault which only feeds the fact that it is labeled a crime of silence. When someone says the word rape it is common in hushed whispers and quiet tones. My goal is for this to change. My goal is for women and men who are victims of assault to speak and the only response is support,” said Kelsey Tucker, a third-year Psych student and a survivor of sexual assault herself.
For speakers, the event was a chance to tell their story and spread awareness about sexual assault, but also a way for them to come to terms with their own experiences. Gypsee Yo, a survivor at the event delivered a poem called “Secondary Survival” detailing the plight of sexual assault victims.
“For the past two years, I’ve been on this podium and shared my experience with you. I’ve shared the same story and the same words each year but this year, something is a little different. I realize the difference was within myself. Each time I share the story, I continue to heal piece by piece,” Tucker said.
“My date is Nov. 17, 2004. It’s not the date I was sexually assaulted. It was the day my voice was heard at Georgia Tech. It was the day I sat at the Georgia Tech undergraduate judiciary committee and retold my story,” said Rachel Weinstein, a Tech alumnus and survivor of sexual assault.
George Ewing, a Tech student, and Margaret Ewing, a Georgia State grad student, are secondary survivors who were present at the event. They shared their story about how they lost their mother to a convicted murderer and rapist. Another student, Margie Caraballo spoke about how she nearly lost a friend to suicide after victimization from her father.
Others in attendance were representatives from the Tech police department and the Counseling Center. They discussed services offered by their organizations including counseling to any victims or associates of victims who needed it and strategies for sexual assault prevention or self-defense. WAM will continue to host events throughout the rest of March.