Healthy Campus Initiatives Hosts Annual “Take Back the Night”

Students could write uplifting messages to each other during the annual "Take Back the Night" event hosted by Healthy Campus Initiatives. - Photo / Jennifer McGraw

Healthy Campus Initiatives hosted “Take Back The Night” on Tuesday, April 5 to promote a healthier and more open discussion at Rowan revolving around sexual violence. 

This year’s rendition of the annual event consisted of a convention-style meet and greet, open-mic section and symbolic walk to help spread awareness of the real yet often miscommunicated issue of sexual assault. Dozens of organizations showed up to the Student Center to show their support, some native to Rowan, others from state-wide non-profits, but all looking to help create a better narrative around the intense topic. 

“People have such unique experiences,” said HCI Graduate Coordinator Serina Gonzalez. Take Back The Night “gives people a chance to be vulnerable, and have a nice safe space on this campus to actually open up about these things.”

While preparing for the open-mic portion, attendees made their way around the pit to the tables set up by each organization. Each table offered a free concession to those who stopped by. These ranged from a pen from the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, to a t-shirt from Rowan Athletics. 

Allie Pearce, director of HCI, opened up the discussion with a statement of gratitude, “The one thing that gives me comfort and hope, is that the community continues to come together.”

As detailed by Pearce, and then Gonzalez afterward, there has to be a yin and yang approach to talking about sexual assault. Meaning that, because someone does not personally know a victim of sexual assault, it should not excuse them for not knowing how to react if someone comes to them for help. That is one half of the equation, it is the responsibility of the community to be open to talking to, and supporting victims of sexual assault. The other half, as stigmatized as it may be, is the victim speaking up, although it can oftentimes be the most difficult part of the process. 

“Sometimes I feel like the suffering we hold with these issues feels insurmountable,” said Associate Director of the Wellness Center, Amy Hoch.

Providing students at Rowan with the opportunity to speak about this topic could be viewed as an avenue to open up about their internalized struggles. Healthy Campus initiatives and the Rowan Wellness Center have collaborated to improve the accessibility for students under those circumstances. 

“As a whole community, Rowan is really making strides to make people feel comfortable talking about sexual and dating violence,” Gonzalez said.

One of the first guest speakers during the open mic discussed their instance of dating abuse. Another detailed the reasons why young mothers, of everyone, can deal with abuse in more unique ways. A point of emphasis throughout the event is that sexual violence can come in a variety of different forms, and it is important to understand and be knowledgeable about all of them. 

The victims that spoke during the open-mic did so with passion and pure frustration that touched the hearts of everyone in the room. 

“I thought everyone would blame me, ignore me, and call me a liar,” said one anonymous speaker, “five years ago, I would not be able to speak about this.” 

Following the open-mic portion, those who were optioned could join a walk through Rowan’s campus to help spread the word about sexual violence. To conclude the event, HCI raffled off a handful of baskets for those who completed the walk.

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