UT Community Takes Back the Night

Published: Apr 27, 2010
With plates and glass in hand, University of Tampa students, faculty and staff will be shattering the silence on Thursday, April 29.

UT is one of 10 colleges around the country, including Harvard and Brown universities, selected as an official site of 10 Points of Light to Take Back the Night. The event raises awareness and seeks an end to sexual violence.

“I don’t see a reason for domestic violence,” said Katelyn Soja ’11, a resident assistant. “It is something that makes me angry when I hear about it.”

Soja serves on the executive board of UT’s Residence Hall Association, which is helping coordinate the event.

“There isn’t a lot of dialogue about it. At this age I feel the focus is more on sexual health,” said Soja, who is majoring in advertising and public relations. “But the more you can get people involved, the more we can get the message out. No one is immune.”

UT’s Take Back the Night event is free and open to the public. It starts in the Vaughn Courtyard with a resource fair at 8 p.m. From there, participants will gather on the Plant Hall verandah at 9 p.m. for the conclusion of the Spring Dance Happening.

Dancers will join Take Back the Night in a silent march back to the Vaughn Courtyard to hear national college speakers, and Tampa natives, Kelly and Becca, engage the audience with sexual assault awareness, prevention and sexual empowerment.

“I’m excited about it because I’ve heard they use humor to tackle this serious topic,” Soja said.

It is just one of the ways UT is involved in sexual assault awareness. Programming such as the Vagina Monologues and Team CHAOS’s sexual health awareness week work to this affect. For two years the University has had a 24-hour Victim’s Advocate Hotline, (813) 257-3900.

Knowing where to turn after an assault can be intimidating for victims who often look to their professors, said Kathryn Branch, assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Branch is researching the impact of these disclosures on professors, who are usually unprepared to handle such topics.

“I’ve read recently that college students are more likely not to turn to the police for help,” Branch said. “This is a new area but is critical because college women are at risk for sexual violence more so than the women in the general community.”

In talking with other criminology professors at other schools, she realized she wasn’t the only one. Last summer Branch surveyed her colleagues involved in the American Society of Criminology’s Division of Women in Crime. She found that not only were students disclosing sexual assaults, more than half the time, students were coming to their professors in crisis, crying.

“It’s happening,” Branch said. “The students are coming in crisis, they are disclosing sexual assault to female professors and the professors aren’t prepared to deal with it.

“You don’t leave those stories in the office,” said Branch, who serves on the Sexual Violence Task Force of Tampa Bay. “They are haunting.”

Branch is published in the April 2010 issue of the online journal, Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, in a special issue dedicated to teaching sensitive topics. The article shares her findings for the role strain professors deal with after disclosure.

This semester, Branch and two colleagues from Central Michigan University and the University of South Florida have broadened the survey to include 360 faculty members from different fields at their respective institutions. They are hoping to tabulate the results this summer to get the prevalence rates for this kind of disclosure to faculty.

Branch, who was involved in planning the Tampa Take Back the Night event on April 17, said that many of the survivors who spoke, male and female, said they told their stories to the first person and then not again until years later because they were blamed for the assault.

“How this secondary person responds could shut down the victim’s story,” said Branch who is encouraged to see the UT community participating in Take Back the Night. “It’s important to speak out and say we won’t tolerate violence against the women in our life. Until this isn’t tolerated, it won’t stop.”

Branch can be contacted at kbranch@ut.edu. For more information on UT’s Take Back the Night event, contact the Office of Residence Life at (813) 253-6239 or rha@ut.edu.


Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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