The Highlander

Students Plan to Take Back the Night

Connor Swagler, Reporter

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Members of Promoting Healthy Relationships through Education and Empowerment (PHREE) are looking for volunteers for Take Back the Night, a national event with the goal of ending sexual violence,  set for April 30.

Members held a meeting Feb. 19, to recruit students.

Ewelina Taran, Resident Director and main organizer, said the group hopes to provide the campus community an opportunity to share their experiences in a unique way.

“Traditionally, students have three avenues of remaining confidential if they would like to speak about their experiences, which would be the Health Center, CAPS Center, or Clergy. If they speak with anyone else on campus, they may be speaking with someone that is required to report their experience. Reporting provides students with the opportunity to get connected to resources which is a very positive thing,” said Taran.

But What is unique about Take Back the Night, is that people can speak about their experiences without having to file a report, said Taran.

“The person is in control over whether they would like to speak out or not. If they attend the event and don’t want to speak, they can make that decision at the event and still be there in support of others. The goal of this event is to provide those who have experienced any form of violence a space where they can speak about their experience, which may aid in healing as well as raise awareness about the issues surrounding sexual assault and any other forms of violence,” said Taran.

Taran and the other participants hope to educate about sexual violence,  raise awareness, show support for victims and their loved ones, and share ideas on how to prevent sexual violence. One example of the education they provide is clarification about the differences between sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment.

Tarn said sexual misconduct is a very broad term that does not define the an action.. An example  is pressuring a coworker to go on a date. Sexual harassment is illegal in all the states, and in most cases, sexual harassment has to do with harassment in a work setting. For example, a person in a position of power may touch a subordinate  inappropriately or request  sexual actions knowing that the subordinate is not able to freely object. The second form is one that results in a hostile work environment. It relates to a pervasive action that repeats.

Sexual assault is  an umbrella term for various actions that are in the category of sex crimes. This includes unwanted touching or fondling. Sexual assault is illegal on the federal level but definitions vary in state laws. In the Student Handbook, sexual assault is defined as ‘Having or attempting to have sexual intercourse with another individual: by force or threat of force, without effective consent, or where that individual is incapacitated,'” said Taran.

Taran has a formula to help this event run smoothly. She is having four groups work on different aspects of event planning. 

The four groups consist of Community Engagement, and Activities/Prep-Rally, Grassroots Activism and Clothesline Project. The Community Engagement group will be reaching out in the community as well as  on campus. This group will try and network so they can help raise awarenessabout sexual assault and domestic violence throughout each community.

The Activities/Prep-Rally group will run a pep-rally, as well as organize activities for the event. Some of the activities will be directed at education about sexual assault, and domestic violence.

The Grassroots Activism group will focus is on promotion and spreading the word in the Misericordia community.

The last group, Clothesline Project, will organize an activity based around the Clothesline Project, which is a well established national event that aims to address the issue of violence against women. Members are planning a t-shirt decorating activity.

Sexual assault and domestic abuse is is common, Taran said.

“One in five women have experienced sexual assault, and one in thirty men have experienced sexual assault.”

Taran said that while men are encouraged to participate, so far it seems more women who were interested. Only two men attended the planning meeting while 18 women did.

Sophomore communications major Kenny Grady, who was in attendance that night, said he isn’t surprised.

“One in five females experience it, and only one in 30 males. So I think maybe that has something to do with it,” said Grady.

Grady said he believes that the event is great way for people to spread awareness, and feel free to express themselves.

“I think that this information is something that people should be educated about because it’s important to know,” said Grady.

Junior nursing major Emily Szeflinski believes the event is important because it shows support and unification.

“I believe that this event is more than just being a person who has been a victim of sexual assault or domestic abuse. It is an event to help stand up against those who perpetrate these acts, and comfort and stand behind those who have been victims of these situations,” said Szeflinski

Szeflinski is one of the three members of the Activities/Pep-Rally group, and she added that the university’s Take Back the Night is also about empowerment and comfort.

“I am approaching Take Back the Night with an idea of empowerment. I want to give those a voice who have had it taken from them. I want to give support to those who need it. I want to comfort those who have been feeling alone.  I want to call attention to a topic which is considered taboo,” said Szeflinski.

The university’s Take Back the Night will take place April 25. If you would like to volunteer to help at this event, you can contact Ewelina Taran at etaran@misericordia.edu or call 570-674-3510.

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Students Plan to Take Back the Night