At 12:50 on October 26th, a hush fell over the SAC plaza as a group of easily a hundred students walked into the plaza, and then stood stock-still for five minutes. Many of them were holding signs emblazoned with messages like “A relationship is not a sex contract” and “No means no.”
That was the beginning of Take A Stand/Walk With Me, the Center for Prevention and Outreach’s event to bring awareness to the problem of domestic violence on campus. The freeze, designed to grab onlookers’ attention, was broken by the Stony Brook Drum Line. They led a march that began at the plaza, went past the Administration Building, Wang Center, Union, and concluded back at the SAC.
Take A Stand/Walk With Me was attended by several outreach and advocacy groups that also tabled in the SAC auditorium. In attendance were the Feminist Leadership Majority Alliance, Students Empowered Against Sexual Assault, the Stand Up Committee, and Counseling and Psychological Services. As they set up for the event, statistics on intimate partner violence were displayed on a large screen.
As the group marched through campus, onlookers cheered. One member of Stony Brook’s rugby team jabbed a fist into the air and shouted, “Keep the violence on the field!” Several camera phones were raised to capture pictures of the massive group, and Chris Tanaka, an employee of CPO, weaved around participants to record the event. Marchers responded to the shouts of encouragement with waves and smiles.
When the group returned, they were ushered into the SAC auditorium for a performance by Swallow This. The group opened with a darker take on Katy Parry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” and continued on with several sketches concerning abusive relationships, alcoholism, and sexual violence—all adapted from real life stories.
A wide breadth of information was provided by those tabling, including resources for LGBTQ survivors of domestic violence and a pamphlet of information for immigrant women who experience domestic violence and sexual abuse. “You deserve help,” was bolded, and preceded a lengthy list of all the places providing services to undocumented immigrants.
To conclude the event, Christine Szavaz, the primary organizer, presented a huge banner to a representative of the Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It had been signed by those in attendance and dotted with messages of support. As Szavaz closed the event, she said, “Keep hope alive. Keep spreading the message.”
Women between the ages of 20 and 24 are at the greatest risk of sexual violence, and a quarter of all women will experience it in their lifetime. 7.5% of men have reported intimate partner violence as well. To those who are affected by it, the Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the University Medical Center, CAPS, and CPO have resources readily available.