On Thursday evening, the University of Tennessee’s Women’s Coordinating Council sponsored its annual Take Back the Night event. The event’s goal is to raise awareness for sexual assault and provide a platform for former victims to share their stories.
“Take Back the Night is an essential part of our organization,” secretary Meredith Simmons said. “Our organization’s purpose is to empower individuals of all genders on campus and in the Knoxville community through educational programming and activism, which is exactly what Take Back the Night is.”
Simmons said the event is intended to be a safe place where survivors can tell their stories and a place where the general public can become educated about sexual assault violence in today’s society.
Take Back the Night began at the Humanities Amphitheater outside of HSS, where attendees signed in and received blue shirts with the event’s name placed on the front. The signs and t-shirts designed by victims of sexual assault.
The signs were used during the event’s silent march, which began at the Humanities Amphitheater and made its way through various parts of campus. Once the march commenced, the attendees made their way inside HSS for the keynote and speak-out portion of the event.
Keynote speaker Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs detailed her own personal experience with sexual assault and recited poems from anti-rape activist June Jordan.
“I am not wrong. Wrong is not my name,” Gumbs recited from Jordan’s 1981 poem “Poem About my Rights.” “My name is my own.”
After Grumbs’ speech, the floor was given to individuals who had were connected with sexual assault, whether directly or through someone close to them. The room was designated as a safe space for the speakers to share as many details as they desired, whether through online submissions, poems, hand-written stories or memory.
Once the speak-out portion ended, the group made its way outside for a candlelight vigil to honor victims of sexual assault.
“I think the event turned out better than I could have imagined,” Simmons said. “The attendance from the community was great, and we had so many relevant organizations tabling during the resource fair sharing vital information. Our speaker, Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, brought a very poetic perspective to the issue of domestic violence, which I think helped even more people relate and learn about the issue.”
Edited by Taylor Owens
Featured image by David Bradford