Participating in their own rendition of the Take Back the Night Foundation’s annual event, students marched with empowering signs from Old Main around the campus, chanting “Knox Unite! Take Back the Night!”
Senior Carolyn Ginder, as part of her duties as Health and Wellness Chair in Student Senate, played a large role in organizing the event held on April 24.
“This is us coming together and saying we don’t want [sexual violence] on our campus,” said Ginder.
In 2016, a Washington Post article revealed that Knox ranked fourth in the nation for number of assaults reported per capita, with 10 sexual assault reports per 1,000 students. Considering the publicity of these statistics, Ginder thinks the event, which spreads knowledge about campus resources for support through tabling and marching, is a crucial way to communicate solidarity to survivors.
“Having an event like Sexual Assault Awareness Month it’s an important message for the campus and survivors that we are here for you, we want to help you in whatever way we can,” said Ginder. “This event is meant for survivors to have a voice.”
Since the launch of the #MeToo movement, the media has been more overt about addressing cases of sexual assault. Director of Counseling Services and event coordinator Janell McGruder shared that the movement has been very powerful in giving survivor’s a place to speak. Still, she thinks that more can be done to shed light on minority voices that are often silenced.
“I think [the #MeToo movement] was helpful for some groups more than other groups. I think there’s still a lot of individuals of color, different sexual orientations that don’t fall into the heteronormative society we live in,” said McGruder. “There’s definitely more room in those areas to move forward.”
To make sure that Knox’s event had proper representation, Ginder reached out to cultural clubs to see if they wanted to sponsor a booth.
“We want everyone to have a booth where they feel that they identify with, where they can come,” Ginder said.
McGruder emphasized important aspects of the even. For example, one survivors might feel more hesitant to speak out in environments with less support.
“I think a lot of times when people think about sexual assault, it’s other people’s problems Ñ when the facts are, you know somebody who was a survivor,” said McGruder. “It’s just not a safe space for them to come out and talk about it.”
During the event, Knox announced it had been chosen by The Take Back the Night Foundation to be one of the 10 Points of Light Campuses for the event date in 2020. Ten campuses across the nation each year are individually chosen to demonstrate solidarity in their own unique ways. While McGruder believes there’s still room for improvement in campus resources for survivors, she believes the honor is an opportunity for Knox students to be at the forefront of creating new expectations for college campus culture surrounding sexual assault.
“I think it’s a real testament that Knox is moving toward being a survivor-focused campus, toward being more actively involved in the population,” said McGruder. “I think it’s more about the opportunities that are offered here to educate our students, faculty and staff about what it looks like to be a more trauma-informed campus.”
Alumna Arianna Timko ‘11 delivered a keynote address on student activism and support during the event. On Thursday and Friday, she will host discussions, workshops and office hours regarding problems and solutions to sexual violence. For more information, contact email@example.com or counseling services.