Most people have a general idea of what sexual assault is. It’s a topic one doesn’t gravitate toward on an everyday basis, but it’s an important topic that has affected many lives. Take Back the Night is an event hosted by the Women’s Resource Center, where survivors of sexual assault can go and share their stories in a safe environment.
Opening the double doors of HUB 302 South, two women in “Take Back the Night” T-shirts revealed a dimly lit room filled with activities and blurry sounds of conversation. I walked through the entrance, which was lined by small electric candles, and was greeted by a woman telling me to sign in. I looked around and saw four tables with different activities such as coloring, button creating, flower pen making and T-shirt designing for a clothesline project. A good amount of people were busy doing arts and crafts while others couldn’t resist the delicious smell that was coming from the catered food provided.
As people were busy conversing, grabbing their last quick bite to eat and finishing up their artwork, Kris Moisa, a fourth-year undergraduate political science major, took the microphone and welcomed everyone. She stressed that this was a safe place for people to come out and share their stories. It was a place where survivors and supporters could come together and shatter myths of sexual assault and come to terms with the events so that they may move forward and help others along the way.
I knew I was in for an emotional night when I noticed that there were tissue boxes conveniently placed here and there. I also knew that this was an important night for these survivors and that it takes a lot of courage to speak out and to not be ashamed.
Bernadette Bolanos, the spoken word artist of the night, took the microphone and began telling her story. Bolanos is a survivor from the tender age of six and she now turns to poetry to express her feelings. She recited poems ranging from her abusive experience at home and her relationship with PTSD to exploring her sexuality before ending her set list with a piece titled “Life After Abuse Checklist.” It included giving yourself time, admitting when you’re not okay and “to be open, you have nothing to be ashamed of … being able to say I’m a survivor is a beautiful feeling.”
After Bolanos’ emotional poetry, Sarah Doyle, a fifth-year media and cultural studies student stated that she is a survivor and talked about the importance of mental health. Doyle said she didn’t come to terms with what had happened to her for a long time. “I ran away for a year and a half, which I advise no one in this room to do,” she said with her voice slightly quivering. Doyle is working on the aspect of self-love every day and told the audience to “remember that you are important.”
Following these two speakers, Moisa introduced the four women speakers for the “Speak Out” part of the evening by the names of Angelica, Julian, Nathaly and Daisy. One by one they shared their stories. Angelica, an alumna of UCR, said, “It’s not an easy path of healing, everyone’s different, but it’s perfect in your little way.” Julian was brought to tears when she stated that she was so happy to be alive and said, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It makes the struggle all worth it in the end.” Nathaly shared a poem addressing her perpetrator, which emphasized the fact that the events that were thrown upon her were not her fault. Last but not least, Daisy described that she felt paralyzed when the rape took place and said, “Addressing it made me feel better. I can move again.”
The tears didn’t stop there. Moisa opened up the floor to whoever wanted to come up and share their stories. Some of the people who spoke were Yasmeen Saberi, Kris Moisa, Deka Spears, Jenelle Griffen, Jamiah King and two other brave people.
As the night came to a close, I came out of the event with a much deeper knowledge of sexual assault. Moisa ended the evening by saying, “Love is something that doesn’t run out.” I can’t think of a more wonderful way to end the night. The survivors and supporters who attended made everyone feel like they weren’t alone and that everyone was one step closer to taking back the night.