This year’s Take Back the Night week at the University of Virginia will be the first time the U.Va. Women’s Center will hold a “Day of Healing and Wellness” on Friday/April 18, following the annual Rally, March and Speak Out on Thursday/April 17.

Sandra Menendez, a third-year student at U.Va. and an intern for the Women’s Center in the Sexual and Domestic Violence Services program, said she is most looking forward to this day among all events during that week, as it is dedicated to recovery and the Women’s Center has “never done something like this before, but […] it’s an incredible idea and very much needed.”

Menendez, a survivor of intimate partner violence, has found strength in her recovery through becoming an advocate and sharing her story. She would like “a greater focus shift to the moment someone stops becoming a victim and starts to see themselves as a survivor […] to focus on empowerment, not tragedy.”

Visit this link to read more about Menendez’s story and watch a video interview of her.

She defines empowerment as “that next step when you’ve kind of overcome everything and you’re learning how to re-build and you’re learning how to be yourself again and you’re trying to piece together who this new person is going to be.”

Students are welcome to visit the Women’s Center, located on The Corner at the intersection of 14th Street and University Avenue, from about 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday/April 18.

“In the past, we’ve offered counseling the day after [the Rally, March and Speak Out], but no other formal activities,” Kaplan said. “Survivors of gender violence, whether or not they actively participated in Take Back the Night, frequently struggle emotionally the day after the Speak Out, so we want to offer some structured activities for them.”

Visit this link to learn more about the Rally, March and Speak Out, along with other events.

Within the Women’s Center, the newly decorated space of “Room to Breathe” is a serene, quiet area for “stressed people to regain some calm,” according to Kaplan.  The U.Va. Women’s Club and The White Ribbon Campaign funded the decorating of the room, and it was “designed with survivors in mind.” If students would rather talk with others than be alone, counseling staff will be available for informal conversations about services, self-care, trauma stewardship or any other topics of interest.

As an instructor at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, Menendez has experienced firsthand how “[…] you can exercise [the stress] all out and have your endorphins going, and that’s a way to make yourself feel better, or you can take those silent moments in meditation and that’s a way to make yourself feel calm […]” To that end, the AFC will offer a kickboxing class at noon for survivors who need to work out their frustration in a physical way. Other forms of exercise on this day include a free yoga/mindfulness class at 10 a.m. in Garden 10, or a relaxation yoga class at the AFC at 5:15 p.m.

Artistic expression provides alternatives to exercising. One option is to learn how to write and perform your own work at a session led by award-winning artist Kelly Zen-Ye Tsai at 10 a.m. in the Upstairs Library Conference Room of the Women’s Center. Later in the day, there is also a glass art workshop entitled “Stronger at the Broken Places” from 2-4 p.m. at The Glass Palette , 1304 E. Market St., Suite W. This symbolic experience allows survivors of trauma to break glass and fuse that broken glass into something new. Led by Kaplan, the Women’s Center plans to provide scholarships for up to 10 participants.

The “Day of Wellness and Healing” also includes a Bystander Intervention Workshop at 5 p.m. in in the Commonwealth Room of Newcomb Hall.

Menendez recognized how “recovery looks different [for everyone] and how you get there is your own journey in finding what’s best for you.”

For more information on other events related to what the Women’s Center, the Sexual Assault Leadership Council, student organizations, the University’s Sexual Misconduct Board, and the Office of the Dean of Students have in store for Take Back the Night Week, please visit this link.

By Agnes Filipowski