THURSDAY, April 18 — The rain caused a slow start to the day, but that didn’t quell the spirits of a small coalition of MSU students from proceeding with their mission to create a day of healing to raise awareness of sexual assault on campus.
A group of cheerful young women gathered on the second floor of the MSU Union to make signs for the march taking place later this afternoon. Next to them were dozens of potted plants and paint to decorate them with.
“We want people to take the seedling home and take care of it, nurture it and help it grow. Just as we should do for ourselves,” said Elizabeth Algers, a third-year graduate student and co-coordinator for this year’s Take Back the Night at MSU.
The theme for this year’s annual event is designed to help survivors move forward. The first half of the day focused on the healing elements of art and movement with a trauma informed yoga workshop and painting flower pots, followed by a tour of a new exhibition at the MSU Museum co-curated by survivors called, “Finding Our Voice: Sister Survivors Speak.”
According to Algers, coordinators for Take Back the Night saw that students still had not recovered from the years of sexual assault allegations and having one of the largest Title IX case in history of college sports taking place on their campus. Algers, who is also a volunteer with the MSU Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention, has been trained in various coping mechanisms and said art is “very expressive and calming for anyone.”
In past years, themes for the sexual assault awareness event have been geared toward the importance of believing survivors and speaking out. Last year, keynote speaker Morgan McCaul, delivered her recount of reporting former MSU sports physician Larry Nassar as well as her battles with PTSD.
At 4:15 p.m., independent political and nonprofit consultant, Emily Dievendorf will deliver the keynote speech at the MSU Museum. Dievendorf is a survivor and graduate of James Madison College at Michigan State University. Currently she is an adjunct professor at Olivet College and on the Michigan Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In the past, she served as the former president of the Lansing Association for Human Rights and executive director for Equality Michigan where she advocated for LGBT rights.
The keynote speech will be followed by a “Speak Out” which is essentially an open-mic for the public to share their experiences as survivors and co-survivors.
“It can definitely be difficult for survivors to speak out and share their personal experiences, but it can also be empowering and we want to create that space,” said Jeremy Pardo, event co-coordinator for Take Back The Night and graduate student at Michigan State University.
Creating a safe space is a priority for Pardo and his team. He assures the public that there will be therapy dogs from Love on A Leash as well as licensed therapists from the MSU Counseling Center on site the whole day.
Pardo said that while he is proud of the “strides” the MSU community has made recently, there is still work to be done.
“There are cases every day that we don’t hear about,” Pardo said. “This is a chance to make sure more voices are being heard.”
10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
409 W Circle Dr.
East Lansing, MI 48824