Storytelling and messages of love filled the Janet Ayers Academic Center Chapel as students, faculty and sexual assault survivors gathered for the annual Take Back the Night event Thursday night.
Take Back the Night is an international organization focused on ending sexual violence and violence against women. At Belmont, the Take Back the Night event started in 2015. The evening featured performances, speeches and a march around campus.
The night began with a period of worship followed by introductions from Dr. Amy Hodges Hamilton, a Belmont professor and coordinator of the event. She set the stage for students from her previous Writing in the Community class to give a spoken word on the cycle of addiction and sexual assault.
“You have to tell the story of love. It’s a whole other perspective of love. You don’t charge nothing for love,” said one of the lines from the spoken word, which drew from the experiences of women within the Nashville community who had suffered drug addictions and abuse.
The keynote speaker of the night, Rochelle Brock, encouraged those in attendance to “shine our light” in order to see the areas of Belmont that need change.
“We must speak loud out of the house, out of the doors. We must speak loud out of the crevices of the cracks we hide behind,” said Brock.
Brock was the recipient of the 2019 Domestic Violence Social Justice Award at the inaugural Women Who Rock Nashville Gala this March. She was formerly incarcerated and was released from the Tennessee Prison for Women in 2004. In her recovery process, she has begun to tell her story around Tennessee and is advocating for better conditions in Tennessee prisons.
After the service, those in attendance marched around campus holding signs that featured phrases such as “Got Consent?” and the Take Back the Night slogan, “Shatter the silence. Stop the violence.”
The night ended with a candlelit vigil in the JAAC chapel, where survivors were given the opportunity to share their stories and be the light.
“It doesn’t matter the color, the creed, sexual orientation or where you come from just as long as you shine the light and don’t dim it,” said Brock.