Sexual assault prevention and response is a year-round concern for DePaul University and the host of staff and faculty whose jobs are tied to issues of sexual and relationship violence. Each April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month offers the university community a chance to learn more about the issue, as well as show support for survivors of sexual and relationship violence.
This year, the university community is invited to participate in one or more ways in Take Back the Night at DePaul, an event that serves as direct action aimed at sexual and relationship violence. The event will take place on Wednesday, April 25, at 5 p.m. in the Schmitt Academic Center and includes speakers, a rally and a march through the Lincoln Park campus. The event will conclude with a healing circle in the Arts and Letters Building.
"On many campuses, Take Back the Night continues to be a large scale event. However, it has been a comparatively small event at DePaul in the last few years," says Hannah Retzkin, sexual and relationship violence prevention coordinator in the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness. "DePaul's event will be one of hundreds of similar events happening across 30 countries this year and a planning committee is working hard to increase participation."
Natalie Stone, fraternity and sorority life coordinator in the Office of Student Involvement and a collaborator on the event, adds that increasing the diversity of student voices around the issue is a goal of the planning group.
"We don't just want a bigger event, we want more and different voices, and we want it to be an event where everyone is comfortable sharing their experiences around sexual and relationship violence," Stone says. "In a nutshell, everyone is impacted by sexual and relationship violence, and so everyone should be able to see where they can contribute to the night."
To increase diversity at and amplify the impact of Take Back the Night, the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness is not only collaborating with fraternity and sorority life, but also Ann Russo, an associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and director of The Women's Center, and Michael Riley, coordinator of the LGBTQA Resource Center.
"It made sense to pool our resources and bring our various student groups together to offer one, high-impact and diverse program during Sexual Assault Awareness Month," Retzkin says. "The international platform of Take Back the Night also ups the impact and visibility of the issue."
In addition to the march, rally and healing circle, the organizers are planning an art exhibit consisting of anonymously contributed stories in a variety of mediums. Any community member, whether a survivor or supporter, can submit a piece that reflects their experiences with sexual and relationship violence.
"It can be hard to talk about sexual and relationship violence, so the planning group intentionally included ways for DePaul community members to contribute, even if they aren't ready to speak about their experience," Stone says.
Poetry, short stories and visual media should be submitted by Friday, April 20 to go.depaul.edu/tbtnstory or at any of the following locations:
Cultural Centers, 3rd Floor of O'Connell Building, Lincoln Park
Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, suite 302, Lincoln Park Student Center
The Women's Center, Schmitt Academic Center 150
The Office of Student Involvement, suite 201, Lincoln Park Student Center
Take Back the Night will focus on survivor healing and support, as well as give all attendees, not only survivors, an opportunity to share their stories around sexual and relationship violence.
"The focus of this event has always been on survivors, but we are really steering it in the direction of believing survivors and survivor healing this year," Retzkin says.
If you have any questions about Take Back the Night or Sexual Assault Awareness Month, contact Hannah Retzkin
at (773) 325-7295.