The weeks and months after it happened were “the worst days of my life.”
That’s what Zoe Hannan, junior, criminal justice major and vice president of philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega, said about surviving being sexually assaulted at 18.
“It took many hours of counseling, sharing my story with those I trusted, journaling and self-reflection for me to truly believe that I did not deserve what had happened to me,” Hannan said. “Once I realized that I was a survivor of sexual assault, it became and still is important to me that my experience is understood.”
On Tuesday night, Alpha Chi Omega and Lambda Chi Alpha hosted “Take Back the Night 2019” — a philanthropy event dedicated to bring awareness to the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“Ever since that day, I made a promise to myself to be an advocate for those affected my sexual and/or domestic violence and to spread awareness about the prevalence of these crimes,” said Hannan, who was in charge of planning and executing the event. “I want to be the change I want to see in the world.”
The night started off with Mandi Reynolds, a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor, and Hannan’s mother, sharing her story for the first time in a public setting to a full room of people she didn’t know.
“I decided to share my story because of all of the disappointment that I know my daughter felt for me going through what I went through,” Reynolds said.
Hannan said her mom was the reason why she wanted to host the event.
“It was very important to me once I decided to do this event that I incorporated my mom in it somehow because she’s the strongest woman I know.” Hannan said.
Once Reynolds finished her speech, attendees were handed candles as they silently walked in a U shape from the Atrium to the Scramble Light, concluding at the University Green.
Once gathered there, Sara Leatherberry, philanthropy chair for Alpha Chi Omega, and Joe Trentadue, vice president of external affairs for Lambda Chi Alpha, read off statistics through a megaphone for domestic violence and sexual assault.
In the circular area — commonly known as the Ashtray — next to Whitinger Business Building, Celeste Whalen performed an interpretative dance titled “Dancing Away Domestic Violence,” followed by Alpha Chi Omega member Mara Medors singing a rendition of Kesha’s “Praying,” for the “Singing Away Sexual Assault” segment.
After the festivities, booths were set up around the Ashtray with different activities for people to do. These booths included “Design Your Denim” where people could write messages for what domestic violence and sexual assault means to them, “Throw Pies Not Punches” where attendees could throw a pie on the face of a Lambda Chi Alpha or Alpha Chi Omega member for $1 and a photo booth.
A Better Way, an organization dedicated “to reduce domestic abuse, sexual assault and suicide in our community through shelter services, crisis intervention and prevention initiatives,” according to their website, handed out support resources to the people present.
Leatherberry said the event was organized to bring awareness for their philanthropy — domestic violence awareness.
“Sexual assault and domestic violence is not really the topic that anyone wants to talk about because it’s so sensitive,” Leatherberry said. “It’s kind of hidden under the radar so it’s definitely important to give the voice to those victims that do feel silenced and to speak out and prevent it from happening in the future.”
Contact Evan Weaver with comments firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @evan_weaver7.