Interns at the U.Va. Women’s Center have concentrated their efforts on “revitalizing the rally” on Thursday/April 17 and ending with a “Day of Healing and Wellness” on Friday/April 18 during the University of Virginia’s annual Take Back the Night Week.

“It’s important to recognize [this week] because some of our closest friends at this university are survivors,” said Sandra Menendez, a third-year student at U.Va. and intern at the Women’s Center in the Sexual and Domestic Violence Services (SDVS) program. “They’re learning how to stand on two feet again and rebuild themselves, and it’s so important to be a support system. Further, it’s important to recognize this week because it gets people thinking about healthy relationships and what it truly means to be with someone in a loving way.”

Visit this link to read about Menendez’s personal connection to this week and the Women’s Center.

According to its website, the mission of the Take Back the Night Foundation is “to create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives.”  The history of this international, charitable organization began with rallies and marches in the 1970s.

U.Va. typically facilitates events beyond the rally, which include panels, mock trials and other modes of expression that “shatter the silence and stop the violence.” This is the first year that the Women’s Center is sponsoring a “Day of Healing and Wellness” that includes workshops on stress relief.

Visit this link to learn more about resources and classes offered on the “Day of Healing and Wellness.”

Menendez said she is most looking forward to this day focusing on recovery, as well as the changes to the rally. At 6:30 p.m. on April 17, the march begins at Nameless Field and ends at the U.Va. Amphitheater for a “Survivors’ Speak Out.” Claire Kaplan, the director of SDVS, said this is open to “any survivor of gender-based violence wishing to share.” Survivors who wish to participate may come up to the tent by the stage the night of the rally, or email sdvs@virginia.edu in advance.

According to Menendez, this particular night tends to “[…] get really sad at times, but the rally and the march are places of empowerment because we want people to feel that they can change something. We don’t want them to feel like this is something that is always going to happen and that they have no voice or say.”

Therefore, SDVS interns engaged in outreach with Greek and cultural organizations this year, hoping these groups with “a big voice on Grounds” would show their support by bringing a banner or performing. Menendez said they envisioned that student performances would be interspersed between speaking segments to “showcase a sense of solidarity between student groups and this cause” as the goal of the night is to show that “these tragedies […] kind of swipe you of your agency and of any self-respect and respect from that partner who you were with so to be given that back, by a community, is really powerful […]”

In addition to the “Rally, March and Speak Out” on April 17 and the “Day of Healing and Wellness” on April 18, there will be the following events:

  • “How to Date a Survivor Panel” at 6:30 p.m. on Monday/April 14 in Room #402 of Wilson
  • “Sexual Misconduct Board Trial” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday/April 15 in Newcomb Theater
  • “Open Arts Slam” at 8 p.m. on Wednesday/April 16 at the U.Va. Bookstore Mezzanine

Visit this link to obtain more information on how to seek support and assistance, as well as how to file a complaint of sexual misconduct.

Menendez co-chaired the planning committee for last year’s “How to Date a Survivor Panel” and will be featured on this year’s panel. Since last year, Menendez, a survivor of intimate partner violence, has started dating again.

“[…]For me, it was really kind of hopeful because the panel made it clear to me that I could try again with someone else and that healthy relationships are possible,” she said.

Menendez said when she told her current boyfriend about what happened, she ended the conversation with, “If you don’t want to be with me, I really understand because it’s very difficult to be with someone in this situation when there are triggers […]” However, she was grateful to hear a response of support as he said, “This experience makes me want to be with you even more because I’m so proud that you were able to come through and see it on the other side.”

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