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Students Reflect on Sexual Assault at ‘Hear Me Now’ Vigil

Shrouded by candlelight on the steps of Memorial Church, students spoke out against sexual assault and shared personal stories Wednesday night as administrators and other spectators looked on.

Megan E. Sims ‘18 reads a spoken word poem by the Widener Library steps at Hear Me Now - A Take Back the Night Event. The program, jointly hosted by OSAPR, Response Peer Counseling and CARE, featured performances by poets and musicians and concluded with a reading of anonymous submissions written on the subject of sexual assault.

Titled “Hear Me Now,” the event featured musical and spoken word performances along with personal testimony, and was meant to provide a space for the roughly 50 attendees to reflect on the effects of sexual assault and offer mutual support.

The event took place as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a nationwide effort to bring attention to sexual violence. Attendees slowly walked from Dudley House to Tercentenary Theater, ending at Memorial Church and pausing intermittently for nearly a dozen student performances throughout the procession.

According to organizers Mia A. Charifson ’18 and Ege Yumusak ’16, Hear Me Now sought to offer solidarity and support for anyone affected by sexual violence.

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“This was a chance to listen and connect to others regardless of what you have or have not experienced, and regardless of what you are willing to share or have already shared to others,” she said.

Events of this nature happen often at other universities and colleges, and an international organization called “Take Back the Night” encourages colleges to host candlelit vigils and speak-out events with the end goal of preventing sexual assault.

At most schools, the event is typically called Take Back the Night, as it was at Harvard in the past.

This year, however, the event’s organizers changed the title from Take Back the Night to Hear Me Now because, according to Yumusak, “we think that’s a more suitable title for the event because not all sexual assault happens at night and you could not take it back, some people feel that way.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Response Peer Counseling, the Women’s Center, and the Consent Advocates and Relationship Educators at Harvard.

Beyoncé’s “Halo,” Katy Perry’s “Roar,” and one student’s original song were among the works performed Wednesday evening.

The event concluded with a candlelight vigil.

“I thought it was really great. All the performances were very heartfelt and touching. It was very real and a great time to stop and think,” Nikki Charifson, a senior at Boston University who attended, said.

Dean of Freshmen and interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman '67, Ivy Yard Resident Dean Michael C. Ranen, and other House staff were present at the event.

Still, Yumusak was critical that not more administrators attended the event.

“This is also an event that the administration is invited to to show their support for survivors,” she said.

This year, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is particularly salient as the College and entire University prepares to implement the recommendations of a recent report on sexual assault prevention at Harvard. The report offered a wide-ranging and frequently critical assessment of the “deeply troubling” realities of sexual assault across Harvard’s 12 schools, with a particular focus on the resources and social scene of the College.

There are a number of other events scheduled throughout the month, including talks, a walk, and a conversation scheduled for the College’s annual Visitas admitted students weekend.

—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at jalin.cunningham@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.

—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at ignacio.sabate@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ignacio_sabate.

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