Take Back The Night organizers held a name-burning ceremony at Emeriti Park on Tuesday night to offer victims of sexual assault an opportunity to share their stories and burn paper slips with the names of their attackers.
Around 20 men and women sat in a circle around a cast-iron fire pit for two hours as individuals relayed their experiences with sexual assault, sexual harassment and being a bystander. One participant in the event was Sasha Gough, a sophomore studying creative writing.
“I first went to Take Back The Night last year, and this was one of the most pivotal moments in my own advocacy in trying to help and be a better ally,” Gough said. “And I think even though I told the same story last year, it’s reassuring to know that you’re not alone and other people may have stories that are very similar but different to your own.”
TBTN is an international movement with colleges and women’s advocacy groups. It has held events around the world for decades. The official website states that its mission is to focus on “eliminating sexual and domestic violence in all forms.”
Athens’ TBTN week is focused on supporting and empowering survivors of rape, sexual assault, power-based personal violence, stalking and abuse. Apart from the name-burning ceremony, Student Senate hosted a self-empowerment and defense event for persons of all identities at the Student Senate office Tuesday night. At the same time, Donkey Coffee arranged a designated space for survivor and bystander stories.
As participants at the burning ceremony dispersed, Gough spoke up about her frustrations with the Survivor Advocacy Program at OU being dissolved and the lack of support it left victims.
“I think it’s a real shame that the university hasn’t done what they can to reinstate the program or do what they can to help survivors,” Gough said. “Starting with if they’re going to get rid of (the Survivor Advocacy Program), making (Counseling and Psychological Services) a little more accessible and giving them more money so they can hire more people. Besides that, they knew this was happening months before it happened, so I’m curious as to why they took so long to take care of it.”
In the future, she hopes OU administrators will give out proper information and keep students up-to-date with better advertising for potential resources. Additionally, Gough wants to see SAP pamphlets taken out of the Hudson waiting room, as not to confuse students searching for resources.
“When I was trying to let people know we were losing SAP at the beginning of fall semester, a lot of people didn’t even know what it was,” Gough said. “And it’s no longer confidential for people to report to the Advocacy Outreach Program. They now have to report to the university or the police depending on whether you’re a student or Athens county member.”
Interested students can get involved with TBTN events occurring through April 11 and by using the hashtag #TBTN2016.