The University of North Florida Victim Advocacy Program brought together dozens of students and local organizations during its annual “Take Back the Night” march and vigil on Wednesday evening.
The event, which marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, began at 4:30 p.m. with an awareness and resource fair, followed by a march, and ended with speakers, performers, a survivor speak-out, and a candlelight vigil.
The goal of “Take Back the Night” is to bring people together to stand against interpersonal violence and abuse in their community, and to ensure people on campus can get access to domestic violence resources.
Latoya Calhoun spoke at the event as part of the work she does with the Hubbard House, but also to share the story of her sister Lashonda, who was a victim of domestic violence.
“That experience was very traumatic when it happened and happened about 20 years ago. And since then, as I’ve been on my own healing journey, I found that sharing her story has helped others in their healing journey as well,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun shared her sister’s story as a way to help people see the signs of domestic violence. She said her sister’s abuse started subtly.
“Some of those signs are just you know, when people are really quiet, when the abuser comes in the room, some of the just the body behavior and things like that,” Calhoun said. “And just really, I think reading up on it and being mindful of some of our commentary when we’re around different folks, because we don’t know what situations they’re in.”
The Assistant Director of Resolution and Engagement with the Dean of Students Office at UNF. Francesca Brant, said she hopes the event will help people be mindful of what warning signs of domestic violence look like.
“I hope that it brings forward more people who maybe have been touched by domestic violence, whether they’re physically in an abusive relationship now or have been in the past, if they are in one now that they do come forward and try to get the support they need because that can be a scary place to live in,” Brant said.
According to UNF, “Take Back the Night” is the oldest worldwide movement to stand against sexual violence in all forms.
There are resources available for people dealing with domestic violence. On campus, students can go to the Dean of Students office. For off-campus resources, there’s the Hubbard House, and Men Against Violence Against Women.
All members of the UNF community can call the 24-hour crisis helpline by calling 904-620-1010.