Nearly 70 women and a handful of menstudents, faculty and community members alikegathered on Tuesday evening in Ida Noyes Library for the ninth annual "SpeakOut Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence," the culmination of Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention's (RSVP) Week of Acknowledgement for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
The service began with an introduction by director of RSVP Rahul Sharma, dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel Alison Boden, and the student organizing committee. The forum was in open-mic format, and all were invited to share their accounts. Two professional counselors were seated in the back for extra support.
Certain guidelines were established before the guests were invited to speak: Do not mention particular names or places, do not speak about another's story without his or her permission, and do respect the privacy of the person's tale.
"We gather in the spirit of healing and courage, as an atmosphere of safety and support to listen to peoples' stories of violation. We all grow and heal by listening to each other," said Jen Slotterback, a fourth-year in the College and member of the SpeakOut planning committee.
After some silence, one woman approached to tell her story, which was followed by silence and abundant tears.
Several more women and a few men stepped up to recount their experiences and describe how they were able to live to tell their tales. People offered advice about preventative measures, voiced concerns with campus safety, and revealed the atrocious acts that led them to SpeakOut and how they are currently coping with them. For some, this forum was their first experience voicing their act of victimization.
Following the open-mike, a small reunion took place in Ida Noyes, where pamphlets and information about sexual assault were available, as well as purple ribbons, the symbol of honor for those victimized by sexual assault. Guests were able to exchange words with one another, and Rahul Sharma, Alison Boden, and the professional counselors made themselves available for assistance.
Members from the community shared their thoughts, affirming that no victim need feel ashamed, guilty or alone.
As one speaker said, "Although it's really hard to be convinced of it sometimes, I did survive this."
For further information on sexual assault, available resources, and/or to find out how you can assist, please visit rsvp.uchicago.edu