Paula Rojas

A young woman reads a card from the Visual Voice Project at the Take Back the Night event at the Main Mall in April of 2015. UT Voices Against Violence held the event to highlight the movement to end sexual violence and support survivors.

Photo Credit: Thalia Juarez | Daily Texan Staff

Voices Against Violence hosted “Take Back the Night” at the Main Mall on Wednesday to provide an open forum for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

Take Back the Night is an annual event that Voices Against Violence hosts as part of Sexual Violence Prevention Month. Sexual violence survivors publicly spoke about their personal experiences at the event. 

Katie Burran, women’s and gender studies junior and volunteer for the event, said some survivors keep their experiences private because of society’s perception of sexual violence.

“There is very rarely a platform in society for people to share their stories, especially because it’s such a taboo subject where victim-blaming is so prevalent,” Burran said.

Erin Burrows, prevention and outreach specialist for Voices Against Violence, said her favorite part of the event was the open forum that helps audience members understand the severity of sexual violence.

“[The event] is a time for people to break stigma, to erase shame, and to really come together as a community to say that we will not tolerate sexual violence on our campus,” Burrows said.

Keynote speaker Paula Rojas emphasized during her speech the importance of finding creative solutions to sexual violence that don’t rely on public institutions.

Rojas said sexual-violence survivors have the advantage in developing solutions that work toward ending sexual violence.

“Each person who is directly affected has a certain level of insight around the problem that the researchers and writers do not have,” Rojas said. “There is a whole different depth of insight and understanding that comes from the direct experience.”

The event also allowed for campus organizations that deal with the topic of sexual violence to voice their own concerns and opinions.

Not On My Campus, a student-led sexual-assault-prevention movement that has gained widespread support at UT, laid out large boards for people to sign and pledge against sexual violence. 

“We are a student-led organization to stand up against sexual violence, and it was important for us to be represented here in order to show survivors that we do support them,” said Sydney O’Connell, corporate communications freshman and a supporter of Not On My Campus.

Plan II freshman Laura Zhang said she enjoyed the informative and interactive environment that the event created.

“The environment of the event created by the band and all of the people at the organization booths encouraged me to stick around and learn more about the issue of sexual violence,” Zhang said.