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Students rally against relationship violence at Take Back the Night

Published on April 18, 2024

Students rally against relationship violence at Take Back the Night

A Women's Center student ambassador pins a lotus flower to a board with words about healing.

Advocates from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut (SACCEC) speak with students.

Director of the Office of Accessibility Services Brooks Scavone (left) and Nicole Potestivo, coordinator of the Pride Center, show their support for students on campus.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff provided information about treatment/support students can access through CAPS.

Advocates from Willimantic's Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut share resources and information.

Students at Eastern Connecticut State University gathered in the Student Center on April 16 to stand against sexual assault, domestic violence and relationship violence at the annual Take Back the Night rally. The event provided a safe space for students to share their experiences and support others in their journeys toward healing. 

“Take Back the Night is an event aimed at honoring and supporting victims of interpersonal violence while also amplifying awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” said Jayline Hernandez-Gomez, a Women's Center student ambassador and lead organizer for the event. “It serves as a platform for students and members of the community to come together to learn about and become aware of important issues surrounding sexual assault and interpersonal violence situations.”  

The event kicked off Lele Week at Eastern, a series of domestic violence awareness events in memory of former Eastern student Alyssiah Wiley. “Take Back the Night showcased the passion and dedication of our community in combating interpersonal violence,” said student co-organizer Angelina Palacios.

“The purpose of tonight is to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual and interpersonal violence and to create a supportive community so survivors feel heard, believed and supported in their healing journey,” said Sara Madera, director of institutional equity and Title IX coordinator at Eastern’s Office of Equity and Diversity. “Victims and survivors of interpersonal violence often feel isolated and alone in their struggles. By reaching out and fostering a culture of compassion and understanding, we can offer support to survivors on their journey to healing and recovery.” 

Two advocates from Willimantic’s Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Center, which is an off-campus resource, explained why knowledge of resources is important for everyone. 

"Events like these bring a lot of community and knowledge to the school, and it’s an important topic that everyone should be aware of,” said one of the advocates. “A lot of people think that it doesn’t affect them, but you never know who in your life it could affect, so if one person has the resources and knowledge, they can help somebody else.” 

Father Larry Lapointe of the Campus Ministry leads attendees in a prayer.

Dean of Students Kemesha Wilmot supports students on the journey toward healing.

Sara Madera, Title IX coordinator with the office of Equity and Diversity, and student Jayline Hernandez Gomez share resources and information about the Student Impact Survey.

FEMALES representative Viridiana de Santiago shares information about her organization and ways to become involved with LeLe Week.

“I was moved by the compassion of those in the room," said Women's Center Director Starsheemar Byrum. "In addition to remembering victims of interpersonal violence, we so deeply wanted every survivor to be seen and heard. My prayer is that they continue the path of healing and recovery and that they know they’re never alone on the journey ... the Eastern community stands for victims and with survivors of interpersonal violence."

Father Larry Lapointe of the Campus Ministry started the ceremony by leading attendees in a prayer, acknowledging the diversity in the audience members’ beliefs, journeys and experiences. 

“It's a wonderful tribute to the spirit that is the soul of Eastern, that we’re here today to remember things that are painful to remember, but to commit ourselves to creating a world where violence and disrespect are only memories, where they are replaced by genuine affection and respect for the dignity of every person,” said Father Larry. 

He added, “Deep inside every one of us, there is a sacred space. Sometimes that sacredness, that interior holiness, gets lost and overwhelmed. It can be something that happens to us or something that happens to someone we love.” 

Eastern’s Repertory Dance Troupe depicted feeling trapped and helpless in an abusive situation in a dance set to “Leave” by CIL, a song that depicts a victim of relationship violence. 

Resources from on and off campus provided information at tables about their services, and their representatives reminded students that there’s always somewhere they can come to. They also made themselves available for anyone who needed support in the moment. 

“We believe building relationships with our community partners is very important, because it’s not just about building relationships, it's about creating a safety net of support for people who need it the most,” said Madera. 

Students listened to stories their peers shared. As survivors shared their experiences, they also shared how it shaped their worldviews. 

“I am sad and enraged for the women who experienced what I did,” said a student who volunteered to share their story with attendees. “As women, we are taught to always fear the worst, as ‘boys will be boys.’” 

The staff members of F.E.M.A.L.E.S. concluded the ceremony by repeating the mantra “I am not what happened to me; I decide what I become.” 

Take Back the Night was a collaborative effort by numerous organizations on and off campus, including The Women’s Center, the student organization F.E.M.A.L.E.S., the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Office of Accessibility Services, Title IX at Eastern, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT). 

Written by Elisabeth Craig