Students in Lehigh's Break the Silence organization participate in a march and speak-out event April 11. The march began at the Clery Memorial and ended at Williams Hall. (Griffin Sawyer/B&W Staff)

BTS marches for sexual assault awareness


Lehigh’s Break the Silence Peer Educators held a “Take Back the Night” event in their ongoing series for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On April 11, they hosted a silent march and discussion for survivors of sexual assault to share their stories.

Take Back the Night is a non-profit organization that began in the 1970s, leading an international movement against sexual violence. 

The history of the event allegedly dates back to 1877, when women in England protested against the fear and violence they experienced walking the streets of London at night.

Lehigh Valley Health Network, the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley and Turning Point of Lehigh Valley appeared at the event to offer support and resources to survivors as well.

The silent march began at 6:30 p.m. at the Clery Memorial Gazebo in Lower Cents following a brief speech from Amber Brose, ‘24, a Break the Silence intern.

Brose told the story of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh student who was assaulted and murdered at Lehigh in 1986.

Clery’s story led to the adoption of the Clery Act, which mandates universities release annual reports concerning security, have a timely warning system in place for serious incidents of sexual violence and boost campus prevention education.

“Take Back the Night has been a beacon of hope and solidarity for survivors of sexual assault and violence, and tonight we continue that tradition,” Brose said.

Participants marched down Taylor Street and to East Packer Avenue. 

From there, the procession circled up University Drive to Williams Hall, where the “Speak Out” portion of the event was held.

On the first floor of Williams Hall, Break the Silence provided a variety of cookies, tea and hot chocolate for attendees, as well as booths for the community partners of Break the Silence and the Office of Survivor Support and Intimacy Education. 

Brooke DeSipio, the director of Survivor Support and Intimacy Education, said the event is a way to create a space where survivors can tell their stories.

“A lot of our programming uses the MeToo sociopolitical framework that is about centering survivors and their experiences, and so this is one of the events that helps to do that on our campus,” DeSipio said.

Caitlyn Kratzer, ‘26, is a member of Break the Silence and attended Take Back the Night.

Kratzer said Take Back the Night offers a healing space for survivors to tell their stories without fear or repercussions, a necessary step for attendees in the healing process.

This year, more attendees from outside Break the Silence were at the event compared to the previous.

“Having a diverse group of members also really helps to get the word out,” Kratzer said. “They’re able to tell their friends ‘Hey, you should come and talk about this, I’m here for you, I’ll be in support of anything you choose to do.'”

As speakers took the time to tell their stories, they were met with compassion and empathy from friends and strangers alike in the audience.

“We don’t want this to just be a group of survivors advocating for themselves,” Brose said. “We want it to be a community where everyone is advocating for the survivors on campus.” 

Representatives from University Counseling and Psychological Services followed up with each speaker to check in and offer assistance if needed.

Break the Silence and the Office of Survivor Support and Intimacy Education offer resources to aid survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence. This includes on-campus confidential resources like the University Counseling and Psychological Services and the Chaplains Office

Additionally, the Lehigh University Police Department and the University report crimes through the Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator

Break the Silence will continue to host events weekly throughout April to honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month, including an event with the Clery Center on April 15, an event with the nonprofit organization Clear Path Wellness Lehigh Valley on April 22, Denim Day on April 24 and will conclude with the sLUt Walk on April 30.

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    How do I make sexual assault unthinkable?

    With all the problems in America and the world seemingly becoming worse; what has the rejection of religious concepts done to influence this trend.

    Has the victim mentality and other concepts replaced the idea of good and evil?

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