On Monday night in Armstrong’s Wiikiaami room, over 30 people sat in a circle, laughing and joking about their days. The room was open, comfortable and brightly lit. Each time someone entered the room, they were greeted with a smile.
No one could guess that this room was a support group, and that almost every person in that room had experienced some form of sexual- or gender-based violence.
The support group, called Survivor Speak Outs, was one of many events put on by Feminists Working On Real Democracy (F-WORD). These events were all leading up to a march from Armstrong to Oxford Park. This march, called the Take Back the Night, protested the current climate on Miami’s campus for those who have experienced sexual- or gender-based violence on campus.
Nora McVey, Miami’s Campus-Based Support Specialist, said that the march’s goal is to “take back this night from sexual violence.”
“It is about supporting survivors and being loud and proud,” she said. “Many people think that gender-based violence isn’t happening, and we want to combat that idea.”
The Survivor Speak Out program, along with an ally training session, focused on creating safe spaces for students and introducing them to different methods and resources available to them.
“We want to educate students on how to be a good friend, and how to support someone to get through this,” said McVey. “If they want to have confidential support, counseling, we are talking about those resources, and how they can do that get support to do those things.”
However, one of the march’s main focuses is the idea that the administration is lacking adequate programs for survivors or victims. here are not enough resources for those who need them, F-WORD member Clara Guerra said.
“There needs to be more resources for survivors,” said Guerra. “There is only one support counselor for 2,000 kids, and there needs to be more advocators.”
According to Hayley Huge, co-president of F-WORD, another change that many advocates want to see on campus is the removal of certain policies that many survivors and victims feel are detrimental.
“A lot of students have problems with mandatory reporting policies, and they find it very silencing,” said Huge. “RA’s and faculty feel like they can’t communicate with their residents and students, and that it hinders their relationships.”
McVey said those participating in Monday’s event are striving to create a more supportive environment in which victims feel more comfortable coming forward.
“As an advocate, I believe that you either know a survivor or you are a survivor,” said McVey. “Gender-based violence truly is a public health epidemic. It truly does affect everyone. This has been an issue that we have been trying to solve forever, so we need to invite everyone to be a part of the solution.”