Monday, October 6, 2014

Speak Out!

If I've seen you in the last few weeks, or if you're friends with me on Facebook (which you probably are - I assume that's how you got here!), you have likely heard me talk or seen me post about Speak Out! Against Interpersonal Violence, one of Project Dinah's events. I have been involved with Project Dinah since my first year at Carolina, and Speak Out! is definitely my favorite event. Project Dinah held Speak Out! this past Thursday night, and it was even more incredible than usual.

Before I tell you about this year's Speak Out!, let me explain a bit more about the event. Project Dinah has a permanent blog, on which we invite survivors of sexual, interpersonal, and identity-based violence, secondary survivors, or allies to anonymously share their stories. On the evening of Speak Out!, we gather in the Pit to read the testimonials and light a candle for each one. We also hear performances from a cappella and spoken word groups, and have an open mic where people can share their stories. The night is somber and emotional, but very powerful. Since we hold Speak Out! in the middle of campus, anyone walking by can hear the stories and stop to listen throughout the course of the night.

Speak Out! was the first Project Dinah event I attended at Carolina. This was the fourth, and last time I will attend this event - so sad! I was proud, though, that more people than ever before attended this year's event. We read eighteen testimonials that have been posted since last year's event, and one especially empowering testimonial that we have read in several previous years. We lit a candle for each testimonial, and displayed fourteen stars to represent the fourteen sexual assaults reported in 2013 at UNC.

On Thursday night, I was overflowing with pride at all the people who attended, everyone who read testimonials, and everyone who shared their stories on our blog. For me, the first time I attended Speak Out! was especially emotional. I know that the night can be very difficult and even triggering for many people. Even as an ally, seeing so many people there gave me an incredible sense of solidarity with the Carolina community, and I am sure that survivors felt very supported by the attendance and the event. Here is a photo of my reading a testimonial.

So all that is to say: everyone who shared their story or came to Speak Out!, even if you just passed by for a minute, is wonderful. And thank you to the Achordants, EROT, Cadence, and the Rejects, who performed this year. Thank you all so much for helping us make this night a huge success!

So why am I posting about this event on my blog? You are probably tired of being bombarded with Facebook updates from me about Speak Out! (#sorrynotsorry). I wanted to write about this event one more time, though, because I think it actually fits in really well with this blog.

I'm not sure I've written it specifically, but the theme of this blog is "What happened today that made me know I am a woman?" And while I have not experienced sexual violence, I stand in support of people who have. At Speak Out! this year, most of the stories were written by women, although at least one was written by a man. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 1 in 5 women and about 1 in 71 men experience rape at some point during their lives. This type of violence is unfortunately common, especially for women, and Speak Out! is a time when we gather in solidarity to recognize that.

One in five women is too many. So is one in seventy-one men. Think about five women you know. Your mom, your sister, your cousin, your friend, your girlfriend. That's five right there. One in five is just too many.

This culture of violence is something we all can work together to change. Some actions, like believing and listening to someone who tells you their story of sexual or interpersonal violence, or simply asking your friends not to make jokes about rape, violence, or women, can make a huge difference in changing the culture, especially on a college campus. Our university is at the forefront of this issue right now - and everyone (men and women!) can make a difference. And there are lots more ways to get involved at UNC, if you want to!

Also, if you didn't get a chance to attend Speak Out! or look at our blog, I invite you to read some of the stories, and share your own if you wish. Please keep in mind that some stories can be triggering.

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