USF Takes Back the Night for victims of sexual assault

The Clothesline Project, "Bearing witness to women for over 20 years." Photo by: Krystalyn Wagner

The sun set over the University of South Florida as crowds gathered around the amphitheater  to Take Back the Night. A bell rang every two minutes, the sound would linger in the air. It was a reminder that with each high-pitched ding another woman was being raped.

Take Back the Night seeks to reclaim the night for women, break the silence and tell the truth about rape.The event was hosted by N.I.T.E at USF. The evening kicked off with a few words by Nicole Sayago, the President of N.I.TE.

A band member from Algorhythm Sky is filled with emotion during the song. Photo by: Krystalyn Wagner

She was followed by  an emotional performance by Algorhythm Sky,whose lyrics spoke to sexual assault victims, saying “don’t spend your whole life, waiting for your whole life, thinking it’s over.”

Clothing decorated by women affected by violence floated in the air as the band played on, their lyrics fighting boldly for survivors. The evening quickly proved that the small packet of tissues provided by N.I.T.E was a necessity.

Nikki Daniels took the stage, a woman who has been an advocate of survivors for 20 years. After spending so many years working with survivors, Daniels can tell you first hand that they have amazing courage.

Nikki Daniels is introduced by the president of N.I.T.E. Photo by: Krystalyn Wagner

She reminded men that they have to take responsibility for the way the culture both treats and talks about women.

Daniels said, men have to say “that is my sister, my mom, my daughter, my friend and it’s not okay that you talk about women that way.”

During the event, the Relationship Equality and Anti-Violence League asked all the men in attendance to stand up and read the R.E.A.L Men’s Promise to End Sexual Violence.

Nearly 70 men stood up to recite the words after Tampa’s gentlemans gentleman Lee Roy Selmon.

Real men are feminists. Photo by: Krystalyn Wagner

The R.E.A.L Men’s Promise encourages by-standers to end the culture that allows for sexual violence and to evaluate the actions of themselves and others.

Sexual violence is just wrong. That’s as simple as we can say it,” said Selmon.

Every person in attendance was asked to participate in the silent march around the heart of campus. Signs were provided and sexual violence statistics rang across the silence. Following the march survivors got the courage to stand and talk about their experiences to educate and prevent others from experiencing the same fate.

A candlelight vigil honoring survivors and a reception closed the evening. However, the evening was not only in honor of the people who spoke out, but the people who are unable to speak.

R.E.A.L Men stand to take the challenge. Photo by: Krystalyn Wagner

“It takes all of us to end sexual violence,” said Daniels.

Please visit Take Back the Nite in Hyde Park on Saturday April 16.

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