Editor’s Note: This story includes mention of sexual violence.
Illuminated by candlelight, members of Shatter the Silence gathered at Dunn Meadow for a vigil in honor of survivors of sexual assault and the red zone.
STS, a student organization on campus for surviors of sexual violence and allies of survivors, organized the vigil to bring light to the issue of sexual assault on campus and to advocate for survivors amidst the rise of reported sexual assaults on campus.
The red zone is the period of time from the start of the fall semester through Thanksgiving break when over 50% of sexual assaults on campuses occur, STS Vice President of Marketing Sol Estrada said. The first few months of the semester are the most dangerous for sexual assault, especially for freshmen who are unfamiliar with the campus and might not know how to report an assault, according to the #MeToo movement website.
“I hope that by coming to this event survivors feel supported and feel like they have a place on campus to come and share their stories or just be surrounded by people that understand what they've been through,” Estrada said.
The STS members lit candles and held a 38-second moment of silence in honor of the 37 reported cases of sexual assault on campus this semester, according to IU NewsNet, and one second for survivors who have not reported.
Vice President MegAnn Pearl read a poem she found online that related to her experience with sexual assualt. President Grace Yoder also read a poem she wrote about her experience. Other members shared their stories and how they were affected by the red zone.
Yoder said she wanted to create a place for survivors to talk with people with similar experiences so they don’t feel alone. She said STS was a big part of her healing experience, and she decided to become the president to help people the same way STS helped her.
“This is so important because this is something we have to live with for the rest of our lives,” Yoder said. “This issue is so much more prevalent than what people actually see.”
STS organized a march in support of survivors before Thanksgiving break, Pearl said, but the group also wanted to hold a vigil to have a safe, calm space for survivors, almost like a support group.
“In other situations like marches and protests, we try to show how strong and resilient we are, but a vigil is a place to say, ‘It’s okay that I’m hurt. It’s okay that I’m sad,’” Pearl said. “This is a space to feel the sadness and the hurt. Those feelings are just as valid as being angry and fed up."
A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or abuse.