“When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, ‘Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends,” a speaker at SU’s ‘Take Back the Night” used the Brene Brown quote to perfectly sum up the night. ‘Take Back the Night,’ an annual event from the PAGE Center, Domestic Violence Services of Cumberland and Perry County (DVSCPC), Women in Need and YWCA Carlisle and Cumberland Co., was held on Tuesday, April 19 in the CUB MPR.
‘Take Back the Night’ is not unique to Shippensburg or even college campuses. It began in the 1970s as a result of a series of attacks on women in San Francisco. The city responded to these assaults by setting a curfew that only applied for women. Outraged, women took to the streets to ‘take back the night.’ Since then, the event has grown. The 80s brought about the demand for women and LGBTQ+ safety, and in the 90s the event was held across many college campuses.
“We all have to commit to stepping in when we see and know that something is wrong,” Arielle Catron, the PAGE Center director said. The event aims to “shatter the silence” and “stop the violence” by providing a safe space for anyone to share their story and also show support.
“Your journey is not linear, it’s fluid,” Jennifer Harfst said. “it doesn’t mean you’re broken; you’re healing.” ‘Take Back the Night’ Harfst runs a peer support group on campus with Ali Laughman. These meetings are on Thursdays at 4 p.m. in CUB 231 and are meant to provide a safe space to speak about one’s experience.
“It’s important that we reclaim our voices and both survivors and allies,” Emily Ott, an adjunct criminal justice professor and one DVSCPC representative, said. “Be aware of the resources in your neighborhood.” The organizations involved shared their services with the study body, and also handed out flyers detailing their purposes.
Shannon Dennis, a volunteer coordinator from Women in Need, shared the information for their free, confidential services like the 24 hotline and a shelter for those fleeing abuse or assault. Women in Need’s goal is not only to provide safety, but to prevent these assaults from happening through education. Dennis said that all of their programs are also currently accepting volunteers.
Catron presented the Gero Award, which is given to those who go above and beyond for women’s safety. Catron awarded the housing department, specifically honoring Jen Milburn, the first female SU Housing and Residence Life director.
While the event usually includes a march around campus, the bitter cold and wind kept the event indoors. During this segment, the floor was open for anyone who wanted to share their story.
“They’ll call you sensitive, they’ll call you crazy, they’ll pull you from close family and friends.” One speaker detailed their experience with narcissistic abuse, a type of abuse where the abuser only cares for themselves. The speaker also explained that this event is not only to educate and take a stand, but also to honor those who are still unable to escape their situations.
“Anyone hurting tonight, know that you can grow and heal and thrive,” Catron said, emphasizing the idea of a healing journey and the time it takes to reclaim control of one’s mind, heart and soul.
‘Take Back the Night’ closed with words from Reverend Jan Bye, who recognized the power of the event through an anecdote in which a student was able to find her voice after attending.
“It’s hard to share these stories, but it’s important,” Bye continued. “It’s only through supporting and caring for each other that we can make change.” This year’s event was bittersweet for Bye, as she is retiring.
After a moment of silence, Bye closed the night with the following sentiment: “Let us be the light in the darkest corners of the world.”
There are many avenues of support available on SU’s campus, including the PAGE Center in CUB 232. Any of the surrounding community organizations are also available.
More information is available on the DVSCPC’s website, at https://www.dvscp.org/. Their 24-Hour hotline is 1-800-852-2102 or 717-258-4249
The Women in Need Inc.’s website is http://winservices.org/. They are holding their 8th Annual ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,’ fundraiser on May 6 to help provide more support for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
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