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Victims of Sexual Assaults Rally for Awareness

Take Back the Night is an event held by the on campus crisis center to empower men and women who have been assaulted.

TAMPA, Fla – Jessica Byron is one of many college students who has been sexually assaulted on college campuses, but she refuses to be labeled as a victim. Byron joined other students for Take Back the Night, an awareness event organized by the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention for students to come together and demonstrate the reality of this issue.  “I have never been to an event that have been this understanding and welcoming to this issue,” Byron said.

Joni Bernbaum, assistant director at the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, helps assist crime victims, prevent violence and promote safety. According to Popcenter.org, women ages 16 to 24 experience sexually violent crimes four times more often than any other age.

“We work with any student, faculty, or staff member affiliated with the University of South Florida who has been a victim of any sort of crime, trauma or abuse,” Bernbaum said. “Whether the crime happens on campus or off campus, happened recently or in the past, and we work with males and females.”

The center works directly with students on campus to educate them on the issues and safe habits to prevent violent crimes.

Trauma, grief, anxiety, anger and helplessness are natural feelings for an individual who has been victimized, according to Bernbaum. People often go through the process of questioning “Why me?”

Letting students share stories at Take Back the Night is a way for these victims to vocalize and come to terms with what happened to them.

“Take Back the Night is an international event that takes place in communities around the country,” Bernbaum said. “The entire idea for Take Back the Night came from a very strong grassroots feminist organization and feminist movement involving the idea that if women weren’t just out at night, they wouldn’t get hurt.”

Lee Roy Selmon, former professional football player and entrepreneur, attended the rally as a special guest to deliver the “REAL MAN” promise. Selmon asked the men to “Believe that sexual and relationship violence will not end until men become part of the solution.”

One man to take the promise is Christian Ramirez, a senior at USF.

“I think it will raise awareness for people on campus and get more people involved in the rally against rape and domestic violence to see that this is real life and not just made- up statistics,” he said.

A silent march was held while various sexual violence statistics were read.   Afterwards, survivors, like Byron were able to share their personal stories to prove that they are not just some statistic.

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