Sexual assault is more prevalent on college campuses than most people think. According to the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, at least one in four college women will become the victim of sexual assault. To reverse this trend, it’s imperative for students to become informed of what the definition of rape is, what consent is, and how to empower themselves.
Buffalo State students will use song, poetry, and personal testimony to convey those messages during the annual Take Back the Night event Wednesday, April 4, at 7:00 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall.
As part of the evening lineup, Buffalo State President Aaron Podolefsky and Dean of Students Charles Kenyon will deliver remarks, and students who have experienced sexual violence or domestic abuse will share their stories.
“We recognize that violence against women is still a problem that students need to be aware of and protect themselves against. That protection comes from being alert to situations where harm might occur and having friends who will help them stay out of harm’s way,” Kenyon said. “Take Back the Night is a high-profile event accompanied by day-to-day work we do with students in the residence halls, in their clubs and organizations, and during programs we offer throughout the year starting at Orientation.”
This year’s theme is “Do Your Part Buffalo State,” which also is the motto for the campus’s bystander intervention program.
“We want students to take personal responsibility, to think about how they would help someone else if they saw them in a dangerous situation,” said Tammy Kresge, assistant director for health promotions at Weigel Health Center. She has served as staff liaison for Take Back the Night for the past decade. “When we put together this event, we want it to be healing for survivors in the audience who may have experienced sexual violence. But we also want people to leave feeling empowered to know that they can make a difference.”
While Take Back the Night is a national initiative that takes place on campuses all over the country, Buffalo State’s event is unique in its use of poetry and song, rather than just speakers. Approximately 40 students are performing, including representatives from the campus’s Pride Alliance and the S.P.I.R.I.T. Gospel Choir.
For the first time this year, a student is directing the performances and overseeing all rehearsals.Derick Sherrier, a theater major who has his own production company on campus, said he wanted to get involved after experiencing last year’s event as an audience member.
He approached Kresge about including his original piece, “Love Allegory,” a composition of poetry, monologue, music, and dance telling the story of four domestic violence victims. Kresge was so impressed with Sherrier that she asked him to serve as artistic director.
“It’s been a fantastic process,” Sherrier said, especially working with students in a variety of majors who are all coming together with a single purpose.
“One thing I love about this is you get to see students at their best,” Kresge added. “None are paid. They’re all practicing on their own time because they want to be a part of this event. I have students contacting me in November about participating. It’s pretty remarkable to see it unfold.”
The event is free and open to the public. For more information call (716) 878-6725.
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