Opinion: An invitation to Take Back the Night


Ariel Landry

Photo illustration Photo credit: Ariel Landry

Stephanie Boyd

After I transferred to Loyola University New Orleans, I started stopsexualassault.org with my mom. As a student who survived sexual assault, and a parent who survived the attack of her daughter, it was our way of speaking out against abuse: sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. So many people seemed ashamed or dismissive of those issues, and we wanted to share our experiences, information and resources to change that.

Fast forward to now. In an effort to raise awareness about sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, all of the colleges and universities in New Orleans will come together for Take Back the Night, an annual march from Loyola to Tulane University. This year, Take Back the Night will start in The Horseshoe at 5:45pm on Wednesday, Oct. 24th. I am honored to announce that I will share my story as the keynote speaker, and I wholeheartedly invite you to attend!

However, I understand that you may have reservations about participating. Speaking out against abuse is hard, and there are several reasons why you may choose not to come. Below are thoughts you may have, and what I have to say about those thoughts. As you read, please consider attending Take Back the Night.

“Talking about that stuff makes me uncomfortable.”

Good. That means that you are a human being who senses the injustice, danger and pain that people face.

Sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking are not easy to talk about. Whether or not you experienced abuse, you do love someone who has or fear that it will happen to you or someone you love one day. Abuse is scary, disturbing and sickening. It is something that we wish did not happen, and we want to avoid uncomfortable emotions by not talking about it. However, if we never talk about abuse we will never stop people from abusing other people. That is why we should educate ourselves and each other about abuse, so we can grow to understand what it is, what those who survive it need and what needs to change to make things better.

On stopsexualassault.org/EDUCATION, you can find information about the signs of, effects from and responses towards abuse. You can also learn more about sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking at Take Back the Night.

“I don’t want to think about what I went through.”

As a fellow survivor, I understand that. Abuse, no matter how someone commits it, leaves painful and haunting memories. It can take weeks, months…even years to heal; triggers are a life-long struggle.

Only you know what you are able to do. If you are unable to hear facts, statistics and stories about sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, you can choose to skip the march. I have done that before. However, at Take Back the Night, hundreds of other survivors and allies will surround you with love. You will be in a safe place to feel anything you feel; and, if you start to feel overwhelmed, there will be advocates there to help you.

Regardless of what you decide, please make sure that you get all of the help you need. On stopsexualassault.org/SUPPORT, there is information about healing through therapy. There is also information about the medical, reporting, disciplinary and legal processes.

“Does what we say or do even matter?”

Yes, it does.

While hearings took place for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a judge sentenced Bill Cosby to prison for sexual assault. While President Donald Trump mocked the #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein sat in criminal court, charged with five sex crimes. Those of us who fight abuse have lost many battles, both publicly and privately. However, we keep fighting because doing so educates others, even when we lose. By fighting, we support survivors that people shame and dismiss, standing up for and with them. When we win a battle, we move one step closer to winning the war against abuse — one step closer to stopping sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking forever.

On stopsexualassault.org/PREVENTION, you can learn ways to reduce your risk and fight for change. You can also sign petitions at Take Back the Night, influencing state and federal laws that affect abuse.

Take Back the Night will start at Loyola, in The Horseshoe, at 5:45pm on Wednesday, Oct. 24th. After we march to Tulane, there will be a speak out for survivors to safely share their stories; after the march, survivors are welcome to share their stories through my and my mom’s website at stopsexualassault.org/AWARENESS.

I hope to see you there!