By: Cassidy Martenson
On Thursday, the Indiana University community joined together to honor the voices of sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors. The annual Take Back the Night Speak Out event was hosted via Zoom and featured survivor stories, statistics, and a mindfulness activity.
Take Back the Night is a worldwide initiative to stop sexual violence and violence against women. The organization began to take shape in the 1970s at an anti-violence march. Today, the organization hosts worldwide events and encourages various organizations and campuses to hold similar events in their communities. These events commonly include a march in support of survivors and an opportunity for survivors to share their stories in a public/open forum.
At IU South Bend faculty, staff and students typically model the march format to raise awareness for survivors and allow victims to share their stories. Due to COVID-19, IU hosted Take Back the Night virtually. Last year, the event had to be canceled due to safety concerns related to the pandemic.
Thursday’s event began with a performance by Ketevan Badridze, a senior lecturer and pianist at IU South Bend. Her performance was meant to create a sense of hope and inspiration for survivors. Following the performance, a keynote was given by the Director of Affirmative Action, EEOC Officer & Deputy Title IX Coordinator at IU, Tracy Amyx.
“Often victims of sexual violence suffer in silence. This program provides an opportunity where they can speak up and speak out about their experiences,” said the Director of Institutional Equity and Inclusive Excellence, Laura Harlow.
Survivor stories were shared to empower, support and educate. Stories were shared mainly by advocates from the Center for Women and Families. One survivor decided to share her story of abuse and assault in order to empower survivors and break the stigmas associated with domestic violence.
Christine Bettcher, a licensed mental health counselor at IU South Bend, led participants in a mindfulness breathing exercise halfway through the readings. This was done to assist attendees that may have an emotional response to the stories. Counselors were also on hand to help any attendee that felt overwhelmed by the event.
“I believe that the biggest uphill battle is the stigma of domestic violence,” said the survivor. She encouraged other survivors and women currently facing abuse to seek help and fight the feelings of isolation.
“Sexual assault and relationship violence are never the victim’s fault and, at IUSB, students do not need to face these traumas alone,” says Bettcher. Students have resources on campus to help them through assault and abuse. The counseling center offers free, confidential, and evidence-based telehealth counseling services for all students at IU South Bend.
“It is important for students to understand their resources on and around campus because it is impossible to predict when themselves or a friend will need these resources,” says IU student and co-president of Sexual Health Advocacy Group (SHAG), Kristin Luce. She encourages students who are interested in joining an organization like SHAG to reach out through Instagram @shagiub as they try to expand from Bloomington to the regional campuses. She also recommends applying for Advocates for Youth’s Condom Collective to promote safe sex on campus.
To learn more about IU’s fight against sexual violence visit https://stopsexualviolence.iu.edu/. To report an assault to IU South Bend visit https://stopsexualviolence.iu.edu/report/iusb/index.html. If a student wishes to schedule an appointment with the counseling center call (574) 520-4125.