MTSU SPARE hosts Take Back the Night event with poet, Title IX educator Olivia Gatwood

Photo and Story by Connor Burnard / Contributing Writer

On Thursday night, MTSU Student Programming and Raider Entertainment (SPARE) hosted a Take Back the Night event in the Student Union Commons to conclude April, which is sexual assault awareness month.

Take Back the night is a global nonprofit focused on eliminating sexual, relationship and domestic violence. The event, called “10 Points of Light,” featured poet and Title IX educator Olivia Gatwood and concluded with a candlelit moment of silence for survivors of sexual violence.

Sarah Elizabeth Harris, a junior double majoring in art history and philosophy, worked with SPARE to organize the event and began the night with a welcome to attendees.

“Take Back the night is about empowerment and support. Take Back the Night means that you are not alone. We are all here together to support one another and encourage one another to heal and to find ways in which we can end sexual violence. We are here because we want to be safe, and we want to make the world a safe place for everyone. No one deserves to live in fear,” Harris said in her introduction.

Gatwood, who recently released a book titled “New American Best Friend,” delivered the keynote at the event and performed several of her poems. The poems were based on raising awareness of sexual violence and included topics like rape culture and the gender pay gap. In between poems, she offered advice and insights to attendees.

“We’re here to talk about rape culture and the way sexual assault exists within our lives, our personal lives and also within our communities. It’s important for me to say that sexual assault is an epidemic worldwide in every single community everywhere we go,” Gatwood said. “It’s an epidemic in cities. It’s an epidemic in churches. It’s an epidemic on college campuses. This is not a new or rare thing. It’s a pain that so many of us feel and exist in. And, because of the culture we live in, it’s not being tackled or dealt with the way that it should.”

After Gatwood’s keynote, Harris returned to the stage to facilitate the moment of silence and attendees were given electric candles to hold in respect and thought for survivors of sexual violence.

Harris said that the event was important to attract people’s attention to a topic that some might find uncomfortable to talk about.

“It’s really important that we raise awareness for sexual assault on college campuses. It’s something that’s a growing epidemic, and it needs to be addressed, and it needs to be talked about because there’s not conversation about it,” Harris said. “Definitely talk to each other about it. Definitely start talking to your friends about it. Talk to your parents about it. Do your research. Just make sure that you’re informed and that you’re aware.”

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