Torch Photo/ Nick Bello
On Oct. 20, the St. John’s community joined together for a virtual version of “Take Back the Night,” where attendees heard personal stories from survivors about abuse they endured in their lives. These stories were read by current students, who shared off-camera in order to protect their identities. “I can’t get that back,” was the last line of a poem recited off-camera that ended with multiple voices repeating the phrase and then … a moment of silence.
Every October, members of the St. John’s community gather on the Queens campus, wielding candles and glow sticks as they walk along the campus to show solidarity with survivors of sexual violence. This year, however, due to the pandemic, this intimate gathering was creatively and safely orchestrated on a virtual platform.
The presentation was sponsored by the Sexual Violence Outreach Awareness & Response Office (SOAR) and Student Government, Inc. (SGi) and hosted by SOAR Office Graduate Assistants Julie Koenigsberg and Gabriella Gottschall. SGi Secretary, Natasha Yangthito-Villa, opened the event and thanked everyone for attending the online gathering and for standing in support, friendship and allyship to all survivors of sexual violence.
“We knew that this year it would be particularly challenging to plan Take Back the Night, an event most notably known for its physical gathering of students to march together across campus holding candles, glowsticks, and signs,” Koenigsberg told the Torch after the event. “But through a collaborative effort with student organizations, Take Back the Night this year, while different, was very meaningful and still included components of previous events, such as, the telling of survivor stories and the reiteration of all our campus resources.”
This online event began with a mindful meditation practice led by SOAR guide, Kaitlyn Orsini. There were several TED Talk video clips of survivors who described the abuse they suffered.
Dr. Tow Yau, director of the Center for Counseling & Consultation (CCC) and the interim campus support advisor, shared information about his role to support and connect students in receiving whatever services are needed in order to assist survivors to succeed in their studies or to provide accommodations for a leave of absence, depending on individual circumstances.
Intertwined with survivor stories, the Associate Director of the CCC, Dr. Erin Ryan, discussed ways in which their office could be easily accessed for free and confidential resources to any St. John’s student that experiences any form of abuse. Currently these services are being handled remotely for safety purposes due to COVID-19.
“While 2020 has been unpredictable to say the least, we want our students to know that they can continue to count on the S.O.A.R. Office for education, connection, and support on matters of sexual violence prevention,” Gottschall told the Torch. “We are so excited to be able to host meaningful events such as TBTN and look forward to future programming where SJU students can join us virtually with just the click of a button.”
The presentation concluded with an invitation to join SOAR and the Take Back the Night Foundation in their Take Back the Night Global Virtual event which took place on Thursday, Oct. 22. For more information about the Take Back the Night Foundation, check out their website here.
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking, the university provides confidential resources through the Center for Counseling & Consultation. For more information related to Confidential Resources, please contact: Center for Counseling & Consultation.
Campus Support Advisor (CSA) 1-718-990-8484