Vigil Aims To Combat Sexual Violence

Monday, April 7, 2008

Saint Joseph's will hold its eighth annual Take Back The Night Vigil on Wednesday, April 9, in an initiative that aims to end the silence about sexual violence and promote strategies for prevention. The event will be held in the Chapel of St. Joseph-Michael J. Smith, S.J., Memorial at 7 p.m.

Bill Mitchell, father of Kristin Mitchell '05, who was a victim of violence, will be the keynote speaker. Mitchell will share his experience of losing a daughter to violence not long after her graduation from college.

The event invites members of the Saint Joseph's community to dialogue about physical and sexual violence. Alumna Stephanie Douglas '05, who works as a child abuse education coordinator at the Victim Service Center of Montgomery County, will discuss her role as a victim advocate and crisis counselor. President Timothy R. Lannon, S.J., and Hollyanne Pronko, student body president, will welcome the Take Back The Night participants. John Lord, Ph.D., professor and chair of food marketing, will discuss physical and emotional abuse in relationships, and acknowledge the Mitchell family, who serve as an example of how to turn tragedy into something positive.

"While other Philadelphia schools host Take Back The Night events, the Saint Joseph's crowd is by far the largest,'' said Raquel Bergen, Ph.D., professor and chair of sociology and co-moderator of the Rape Education Prevention Program (REPP). "Here the energy and dedication of the REPP members and the climate of the University have encouraged a large number of people to speak about their experiences."

In October, members of REPP and the SJU community started creating t-shirts for the national Clothesline Project. Participants were asked to depict their feelings about sexual violence on t-shirts, which will be displayed on a clothesline in Campion Student Center prior to the event, and then moved to the Chapel of St. Joseph on the night of the event.

"It is important to take time to honor and acknowledge those affected. By joining together as a community, we are making a statement that sexual violence will not be tolerated on the SJU campus or in our community," said Lynn Panepinto '08, program coordinator of REPP.

In a dramatic finale to the event, 70 candles in luminary bags will line the sidewalk leading from the chapel doors.

--Claire Williams '08

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