‘You did nothing wrong’
Women in Support of Humanity held an event called Take Back the Night. Students listened to the stories of others and were encouraged to share their own sexual assault or rape experiences as well.
One in four women are raped in college. Sixty percent of rapes are not reported. Ninety-seven percent of rapists are never incarcerated.
These are the chilling statistics that Quinnipiac University students were introduced to on Tuesday, March 31 at Women in Support of Humanity’s event Take Back the Night.
The club, known around campus as WISH, held the event to raise awareness about sexual assault and its many victims. Students filled the Mount Carmel Auditorium to hear speakers discuss their personal experiences, the importance of taking a stand and fighting back against sexual assault.
Representatives from Jane Doe No More, a nonprofit organization that works to bring discussion about sexual assault to the forefront of campuses and communities, shared their stories with Quinnipiac students. Donna Palomba, the founder of Jane Doe No More, shared her own harrowing account of assault that took place in 1993 when she was raped by a masked intruder in her own home.
“I hope that [Jane Doe No More] gives courage to other women that if you are a victim of rape, you did nothing wrong,” Palomba said in a clip from her Dateline interview that has since been seen by hundreds of thousands of people.
That is the essence of the goal of the organization. The Jane Doe No More’s mission statement can be found on their website and reads, “Jane Doe No More is improving the way society responds to survivors of sexual assault through education, awareness, advocacy and support.”
The idea of support was echoed by Tina, another Jane Doe No More representative.
“If you are a victim, keep telling people until they believe you. You are worth it,” she said.
Support for victims is especially critical on a college campus where oftentimes peers are the first to hear about the assault of a classmate as opposed to professors or the public safety department. When hearing about sexual assault, many students are quick to form opinions. Students are encouraged to “put preconceived notions of sexual assault aside,” according to Palomba.
After several emotional hours of personal testimonies and discussion about assault, all students present were invited outside to have a candlelight vigil and a moment of silence to respect and honor those who have been affected by rape and sexual assault. This gave students a chance to reflect on all the deep feelings they had felt that night and process what they had heard.
When dealing with sensitive topics, many people find it helpful to have people who are familiar with the subject matter facilitating discussion, such as the Jane Doe No More representatives. Many students spoke out at the event as well as after about how hearing the stories of individuals who had experienced assault firsthand.
The takeaway message for students was that this is something that could happen to everyone and everyone is responsible for putting an end to rape and sexual assault.
“I was very naïve about what could happen to someone like me on any given day,” junior Gianna Costantino said. “After attending this event, I feel I know more about these issues that face young women not only in my community but at Quinnipiac specifically.”
Donna Palomba stressed that students should stay in groups and use the buddy system when out at night and that if any individual sees something weird going on, it is OK to intervene. Most importantly, if you are a victim, it is not your fault.
“Most men don’t rape. But those who do don’t realize there is anything wrong with it,” she said.
Together, WISH and Jane Doe No More helped students become more aware of these dangers and gave Quinnipiac University a reason to Take Back the Night together in a supportive and cooperative environment.