Over 100 members of the UR community gathered in the Welles-Brown Room last Thursday evening for Take Back the Night, the capstone event of Domestic Violence Awareness Week on campus.
It was a night of solidarity and reflection, as Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, a Title IX activist, spoke to students about sexual assault.
Recounting her personal experience with sexual assault, Ridolfi-Starr touched on the inadequacy of resources available to victims on college campuses and the flaws of the U.S. legal system.
“No one represents the victim, and their needs and goals are considered secondary,” she said of the criminal justice system.
Conversely, she suggested that for many victims, school is their only option if they don’t want the police to handle their cases.
“Schools are focused on the victim and are required to ensure that students have what they need to continue their education,” she said.
Ridolfi-Starr also highlighted recent policy changes regarding sexual assault practices at colleges.
“The Department of Education has issued clarified guidelines that provide a baseline for how schools are supposed to practice, and report on sexual and dating violence,” she said. “Student activism led to the court decision that required schools to address it, and it has led to the flesh and teeth of what schools are required to do.”
In the candlelight march that followed, students walked around the Eastman Quadrangle holding candles as a gesture of solidarity.
Victims were encouraged to share their stories, and those who came forward spoke of the common mental effects associated with sexual assault and rape, such as depression, PTSD, the tendency to be in abusive relationships, and multiple victimizations.
One student shared a spoken-word poem, titled “Twitch,” about the emotional, psychological, and physical effects of sexual assault on a victim’s day-to-day life.
“It takes a lot of courage, and sometimes the courage you have doesn’t even feel like courage,” Ridolfi-Starr said after hearing students share their stories. “Sometimes the courage is just in the everyday act of staying alive, and keeping things going.”
Senior Hannah Greenwald praised Take Back the Night’s supportive environment, describing it as “an amazing and comfortable space where people feel comfortable talking about it and speaking up.”
Senior Vanessa Sanchez agreed.
“It’s a space that they will be heard and not be judged,” she said. “That’s why it’s such an important event—just giving people the opportunity that they will be heard.”