Cutchin Field was packed with students last night – and they were not there to watch a soccer game.
Hundreds of Murray State students attended the annual event Take Back the Night, presented by the University’s Women’s Center.
The event creates awareness of violence and sexual assault.
Mike Young, associate vice president of Student Affairs, began the event with a request for the students present to stand against violence and rape.
“Whether you have been impacted, know someone who has been impacted or are realizing for the first time the extent of the problem, commit tonight to be a part of the solution,” Young said.
He spoke briefly, then introduced the first speaker, Hannah Bradley.
Bradley, a surivor of sexual assault by a coworker, told those in attendance her story.
She described the aftermath of the assault, and how she felt convinced that she was the one to blame.
But as she continued her story, it transformed into a tale of personal perserverence and growth. She described her positive experiences in both therapy and martial arts training, and the way those experiences changed the way she views herself.
“I am more than a victim. More, even, than a survivor. I am a wife, a student, a caretaker, a sister, a music lover, a friend, a daughter,” Bradley said.
Along with Bradley’s story, there were poetry readings, two more personal testimonies, a vocal performance by Chris Slone and a call to action from the director of the Women’s Center on campus, Abigail French.
“I want to challenge you to evaluate yourself,” French said. “Take a look at your life and decide, do I?promote a culture of respect? Or do I promote a culture of violence?”
The last portion of the event was a pledge taken by the men in attendance.
All over Cutchin Field, men stood on their feet to speak out together against rape and to show their support of women.
As the men finished their pledge, they walked off the field, each receiving a single white rose as they formed two straight lines.
Several women in attendance followed the men, walking through the two lines and past the rows of white paper bags that lined the sidewalk.
The 149 illuminated paper bags each stood for a Kentuckian who died as a result of domestic violence in the last five years.
As students walked past the bags, they could read on them victims’ names and the words “Gone but Not Forgotten,” a request to remember those who lost their lives, and to never forget the reason they died.
Take Back the Night is attended by hundreds of Murray State students annually, as well as faculty and staff.
This year centralized around the theme of not letting assault, domestic violence or rape define a person.
The role of victim, or even of survivor, was not a role that any of the night’s speakers wanted as their own.
All of the event’s participants spoke out to play their part in raising awareness about violence.
Each advised students to be aware of violence occurring on campus, at home or against someone they know.
Aaron Harpole, a sophomore from Clinton, Ky., said he became more aware of violence and sexual assault occurring in this area after listening to last night’s speakers.
“The second speaker, Stephanie Smith, she was my favorite. Her poem about her experiences really opened my eyes; I never expected stuff like that to happen around here,” Harpole said.
Take Back the Night concluded in the Curris Center with the grand opening of the Clothesline Project.
Story by Kate Russell, Staff Writer