Updated: Apr 22, 2022
Editor’s Note: This article mentions sexual assault.
For some, walking across campus in the dark is just an ordinary stroll after hanging out with friends or one of the downsides of a night class.
But for women, it can be a lot like playing a game of chance. Will they make it back safe?
Looking to take back the night, Belmont’s Title IX office and LGBTQ+ group Bridge Builders empowered and remembered sexual assault survivors at an event Thursday.
“One of the ideas behind the Take Back the Night march is to empower women who have felt unsafe walking at night,” said senior Emma Frazier, president of Bridge Builders.
“Members of the LGBTQAI+ are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual violence, which is one of the reasons why this event is so important to Bridge Builders,” said Frazier.
What’s more, 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX — a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination.
Legislators initially enacted Title IX in 1972 to stop sex discrimination in school sports, but over time, the law evolved to include protection against sexual assault and harassment for students of any sex.
And the Take Back the Night march recognizes its importance and broad applicability. Though rain canceled the march, advocates came together in Gabhart chapel to share stories and support.
“Take Back the Night has a mission of ending all forms of sexual violence. Any gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity can be a victim of sexual violence, and any can be a perpetrator,” said Lauri Chaudoin, Belmont’s Title IX coordinator and director of Title IX compliance and prevention programs.
The night started with a special chapel service where students performed a poem, “Know My Name,” about the trauma faced by sexual assault survivors.
For victims of sexual violence dealing with such trauma, Nashville has housing and wellness resources, including Rest Stop Ministries, a rehabilitative organization present at the event.
Rest Stop Ministries gives sexual assault survivors like Galia Meira emotional support they need to get back on their feet and live a life past their abuse.
Keynote speaker Meira shared her story for the first time in the chapel, which provided a safe space for her and others to talk about their experiences.
“I feel like my story can impact many people,” said Meira. “This story of particularly sex trafficking needs to get out there, because not enough people know that it exists. It’s not just a foreign thing, but it’s in our neighborhoods.”
Students attended the chapel service not just to hear from others, but to break the silence and share their own stories.
Students like senior Hannah Flora Driskill come to Take Back the Night each year to tell her story and show that speaking out helps and provides relief.
“When I came my freshman year, it truly changed my life and my perspective and brought me a community and healing that I hadn’t had yet,” said Driskill.
“To me, it means gaining your voice back and speaking up and shattering that silence because you owe it to yourself to find your power, and words have power.”
If you or anyone you know has been impacted by sexual violence and want to shatter the silence and stop the violence, Belmont’s Title IX office offers help at your own pace.
If you would like to anonymously speak about your experiences without pursuing any sort of action, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673.
PHOTO: Student performers in Gabhart Chapel at Take Back the Night. Nico Ingram / Belmont Vision
This article was written by Nico Ingram.