By Samantha Snead
On November 11, students, faculty, and members of the Salem community gathered for “Take Back the Night”, an event to raise awareness and show support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The event began with words from five speakers, followed by two songs from Mainstreet. Participants then walked around campus carrying candles, and congregated on the Sutton Terrace for a bonfire and discussion.
After giving some brief history about the origin of the international event, Laura Lee Wight introduced the five speakers who explained how the college deals with allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as statistics about domestic violence. Among the speakers were Brian Chisom, Tom Rambo, Detective Mike Early, Karen Beckham, and Chris Bowen. Chisom told students about the various resources available to them on-campus, including the Chaplain’s Office, Counseling Office, and Office of Health Services. He reminded students that all allegations of sexual misconduct on campus are investigated. Tom Rambo, the new director of Campus Safety, gave some statistics to shatter the misconceptions about domestic violence. Most instances of domestic violence are not reported, yet one in four women are the victims of domestic violence in their lives. He also gave students three directions about what to do if they know someone who has been raped or otherwise assaulted. Firstly, students should make sure that their friend knows that they did not deserve what happened to them. Secondly, students should reiterate that it is never the victim’s fault. Finally, students should clearly communicate that they believe the person who has been assaulted. Detective Mike Early from the Salem Police Department mentioned the common theme in crimes against persons is that the victim never expects a crime to be committed against them, and told students that his office is always open for those who need his services. Karen Beckham represented the Sexual Assault Response and Awareness Center, which provides confidential counseling to survivors of sexual assault, free of charge. The final speaker was Chris Bowen, who shared his personal experiences with sexual assault and led the group in a prayer.
The Roanoke College all-female a capella group, Mainstreet, performed “Hallelujah” and “Amazing Grace” before Campus Safety led participants around campus. The walk ended at Sutton Terrace, where hot chocolate and s’mores were provided. Students, faculty, and members of the community shared personal stories, advice for survivors of sexual assault, and messages of support to those affected. Students were given pieces of paper to write down burdens or stressors in their lives, which they then threw into the fire.
The event was a success, as there was a much higher turnout this year than last year. Junior Sarah Diaz, a member of Mainstreet, said, “I thought it was really well-organized. I especially liked the bonfire at the end. It was a very supportive group of people, and everything was very moving. My favorite part was when we got to write down our troubles or wishes on paper and throw them into the fire. Also, the hot chocolate and s’mores were on point.”