Over the years, East Tennessee State University students and campus officials have held a number of events bringing attention to sexual assault and relationship violence, allowing victims and survivors to express themselves and tell their stories.
In Tennessee, domestic violence makes up about half of all crimes against people, and in 2016, there were more than 5,600 reported cases of sexual assault, according to TBI statistics.
But those are only the reported numbers, according to Kate Emmerich, counselor and coordinator for Outreach and Advocacy: Sexuality Information for Students.
“Issues like these thrive in silence. With the statistics we have, we assume they’re on the lower side, but they aren’t representing the scope of the problem,” she said. “That’s why it's important to have conversations about these things.”
Next week, there will be three campus events centering on bringing attention to these issues.
“Take Back The Night”
On Tuesday, the campus community will hold their “Take Back the Night” candlelight vigil, which will honor survivors of sexual and domestic violence. According to a press release from ETSU, participants will be encouraged to begin with making signs at Borchuck Plaza in front of Sherrod Library at 6:30 p.m., before a march around campus beginning at 7 p.m.
In addition to the signs at the march, there will be an open-mic event at the end of the march, which will allow participants to share their stories. The event will be concluded with the lighting of candles and a moment of silence to honor survivors.
“Break the Silence”
On Tuesday and Thursday, the campus community will gather to “Break the Silence” with their clothesline project at Borchuck Plaza, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. both days. Participants will hang T-shirts that tell their stories and stories of others they know who have experienced sexual and domestic violence.
Events such as these, as well as the larger #MeToo movement, help create a sense of shared experiences, which Emmerich said empowers more people to come forward.
“I hear so many individual stories about experiencing gender and sexual violence,” she said. “Being a clinical practitioner and seeing clients, many female clients I see – whether they’re coming in for that or it comes up naturally as part of their experience – mention experiencing this type of violence.”
“Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”
Male students will show solidarity with their female peers at their annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event on Thursday.
For this event – in solidarity with the International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence – men will wear high heels during a one-mile march through ETSU’s campus. Those who do not identify as male can participate with shoes or sneakers, according to campus officials.
The event will begin with check-in and shoe rentals at 5 p.m. at Borchuck Plaza ahead of the “race” at 6:15 p.m.
Registration will be $5 and rentals will also cost $5. All proceeds will go to the Johnson City/Washington County Family Justice Center, a regional organization that provides advocacy services for those who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence.
In case of rain, outdoor events will be held in the D.P. Culp Center. For more information on each of these events, call the ETSU Counseling Center at 423-439-3333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.