In 2000, Jane Morgan Bost wrote a grant to the U.S. Department of Justice to get funding for the first on-campus program to combat interpersonal violence affecting UT students. After this call to action for comprehensive victim services, the program received funding, and Voices Against Violence came to fruition a year later.
To kick off Sexual Assault Awareness month, VAV will host the ninth annual Take Back the Night event today. It allows people to speak out as allies and bystanders around these issues in an open place.
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, completed and attempted rapes occur at a rate of 35 per every 1,000 female students.
“We see survivors of interpersonal violence who come by the center and seek our individual and group counseling and advocacy services,” said Bost, who is now director of Voices Against Violence.
These services include providing specific information on how survivors can acquire safety planning and how to navigate the legal system and medical resources. Bost said the program has seen hundreds of survivors of interpersonal violence who come in for help regarding these issues and who get involved through prevention efforts.
“Because we have such a strong student response and interest in the topic, it seems [interpersonal violence] affects just about everybody in some way,” Bost said.
The event offers the opportunity for speakers to address the everyday micro-aggressions when people of any sexual orientation are referred to with negative language. Individuals who attend the event take a stand and support others through sharing the experiences of family and friends or their own in a safe setting.
“Take Back the Night is a historical event that’s been going on since the ’70s,” said Erin Burrows, prevention and outreach specialist at VAV. “It was a march for a community to literally take back the streets and light up the night with candles, protests, signs and chants.”
Burrows said it has since evolved into a different kind of event at UT where the platform is centered on an open mic speak-out.
Aside from Take Back the Night, the Voices Against Violence program will hosts various other events, including the Theatre for Dialogue performances, which are interactive theater pieces that students perform across campus for classes, student organizations and departments.
“Through our performances, we try to show how to identify when something is a problem and how we support a friend who may be experiencing an abusive or unhealthy relationship,” said Lynn Hoare, Theatre for Dialogue spokeswoman. “The performances act as a way to prepare people to actively respond as an ally if they find themselves in a situation [of sexual assault].”