‘How can we remain silent?’: 150 attend event aimed at fighting sexual violence

sexual assault
Students and faculty walked around Chapman’s campus April 2, holding candles in an act of solidarity for sexual assault survivors. Photo by Cassidy Keola

In an act of solidarity for survivors of sexual assault and interpersonal violence, about 150 students and faculty walked from the Fish Interfaith Center around Chapman’s campus April 2, candles in hand.

The walk was the culmination of the annual “Take Back The Night,” hosted by Chapman’s Creating A Rape-Free Environment for Students (C.A.R.E.S.) organization.

“Interpersonal violence affects all of us: it changes people forever,” said Dani Smith, Chapman’s rape crisis counselor and coordinator for C.A.R.E.S. during the event. “It is a crime that few people talk about.”

Smith has participated every “Take Back The Night” since it first took place on Chapman’s campus in 1998, she said. She has had an integral role in Chapman’s approach toward campus sexual assault, writing the university’s first-ever sexual misconduct policy in 1997.

Smith wrote and compiled the program for the event, sharing a testimony from a Chapman student and survivor of sexual assault.

“One Chapman student put it like this,” she said. “‘I share my experience to let you know that it is not your fault. Your experience must have been overwhelming, but you have nothing to be ashamed of.’”

The event’s attendees included students, faculty, survivors and allies. Chris Costa, a senior psychology major and once-president of Phi Kappa Tau, told The Panther that he has attended “Take Back The Night” all four years of his college career.

“My mom is a survivor, so is my best friend,” Costa said. “Unfortunately, this happens often. Men need to show up to events like these and listen.”
About 12 members of Phi Kappa Tau attended the event during Costa’s freshman year, he said. This year, about 30 were in attendance.

“Sexual assault is something we talk about outside of the mandatory times. When I was president of Phi Kappa Tau, it was one thing that I really cared about,” he said. “Dani (Smith) is incredible – for her, the school and for the speakers, we make a point of coming every year.”

The evening was comprised of the retelling of students’ experiences with sexual violence and performances were made by student vocalist Cassandra Thibeault and student a cappella group Simply Vocale.

Simply Vocale sang “Kinder,” originally performed by female vocal group Copper Wimmin. Simply Vocale president Erica Marfo told The Panther that performing at the event two years in a row is an “honor.”

“Each year, we find new meaning,” she said. “(Kinder) talks about deciding to let go of demons, of all the pain and deciding to be happy, which we thought fit the purpose of the evening.”

A short video made by Jenna Perry, a sophomore broadcast journalism and political science double major, was played for the audience, showing interviews with several Chapman students about interpersonal violence and assault on college campuses.

Perry made an “intentional” choice to to play “‘Til It Happens To You,” a song by Lady Gaga written for the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” over the footage. The “power” of the song made it an appropriate choice, she said.

“Think of four women you know,” said Connor Kennedy, a C.A.R.E.S. student, at the event. “Statistically, one of them will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. If you think of five college women you know, one of them has been sexually assaulted already, or will be before they leave Chapman.”

Audience members opened their eyes. Sabrina Dworkin, a junior public relations and advertising major and C.A.R.E.S. member, took the podium.

“These aren’t statistics, these are people,” she said. “How can we remain silent?”