Take Back The Night
The sixth annual speak-out against sexual violence at the Tampa campus attracted nearly 300 students.
Larry Braue , the director of Veterans Services at USF, leads the men present in the REAL Men's Promise. Photo: Dani Barta | USF News
TAMPA, Fla. (April 25, 2012) – For Liz Moschella, the bright blue ribbon with “Hope” emblazoned on the side is more than just body art. The tattoo on her ankle symbolizes the struggle she went through as a survivor of sexual violence and the person she’s become as a result.
Moschella, a psychology student at the University of South Florida, is not alone. Nearly 300 survivors and allies participated in a candlelight vigil and speak-out against sexual violence during last Friday’s sixth annual “Take Back the Night.”
Instead of candles, students used battery-operated tea light candles, glow sticks, and their cell phones.
The event has grown to include the REAL Men’s Promise, a silent march, a speak-out, a candlelit vigil and the Clothesline Project of Tampa Bay, a visual display of t-shirts designed by survivors of abuse and those who have lost loved ones to it.
“Everybody knows somebody affected by sexual violence,” said Moschella, the Outreach Coordinator for N.I.T.E. “Events like this really help bring everybody together so survivors can feel that love and support from their community.”
For years after she was sexually abused by someone she knew, she placed the blame on herself. Her three closest friends told her it was her fault, she shouldn’t have been at that party.
“I thought it was my fault and I was this awful person for putting myself in a place where I could be victimized,” Moschella said. “When I went to Take Back The Night and shared my story, after hearing others speak, I realized it wasn't my fault. I'm no longer a victim. I'm a survivor. “
Moschella’s parents, who only recently found out about their daughter’s experience, sat in the audience to support Moschella and watch her inspire other young women in the crowd. They wore “Got Consent?” shirts.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 1,350 rapes are committed against women in the time you’ll spend in a three-credit-hour course each semester. Nearly 50 percent of women know their attackers and one-in-four women and one-in-33 men will be victims of rape.
Larry Braue, the director for Veterans Services at USF, was one of this year’s keynote speakers. He showed a photo of his infant granddaughter and said she was the reason he was there. His daughter was a survivor of domestic abuse and he wanted to help men take responsibility, to help shape a world where his granddaughter could grow up safe.
“I'm looking out into the crowd and wish I saw more men,” Braue said. “The ones here need to reach out and touch their friends on the shoulder, encourage them to step up and take responsibility.”
One of the men present, John Menezes, a USF biology student, heard Braue’s message loud and clear.
“Men should come because you can't sit idly by and watch sexual violence and domestic violence happen,” Menezes said. “If we want it to stop, men have to be part of the solution.”
Menezes got involved with N.I.T.E. through a project in his Woman and Communication course. A year and a half later, he’s still involved. He said Take Back the Night doesn’t cater to stereotypical “maleness” and that’s why fewer men than woman participate.
“People, talk about cancer like ‘oh, my mom had cancer’ but don't say ‘oh, I was raped the other day’.” Moschella said. “It's frowned upon in our society to talk about it.”
Moschella said the blue ribbon on her ankle is one way to get that conversation started.
“Everybody should have the right to have control over their own body,” Moschella said. “You shouldn't have to be a victim in order to care.”
Daylina Miller can be reached at 813-500-8754.