University of Nebraska at Omaha students and community members gathered at Memorial Park Thursday to participate in Take Back the Night, an international event working to end sexual violence and support survivors.
UNO’s Take Back the Night was sponsored by the Women’s Re-source Center (WRC), Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSR) and UNMC’s EMPOWER. GSR Director Jessi Hitchins estimates “a little more than a hundred” people participated in the event.
The event included a rally featuring speakers from local organizations providing victim and survivor advocacy. UNO student and abuse survivor Bronwyn Zitka was the keynote speaker.
Zitka, who also spoke at last year’s rally, shared her story with the crowd through a poem she wrote while taking a women and gender studies class.
“I went home and wrote this poem,” Zitka said in an interview, “and I talked to my professor and asked if I could share it. She said she couldn’t sanction sharing it in class, but why don’t I find a public place and she’ll make it extra credit and so I did.”
After reading her poem for extra credit, Zitka had people come up and thank her for sharing her story, which she said was “shocking” but also made her “want to share more.”
“If my path to healing included speaking and telling my story, other people’s doesn’t necessarily do that or include that, so if I could be of use to them, then maybe I could turn something beautiful out of something terrible,” Zitka said.
Zitka continues to share her poem and testimony through events and her YouTube channel in order to educate others and positively impact the lives of survivors.
“Every time I share my poem, it’s scary because you don’t know how people will feel, but when I see the look on people’s faces and when people come up to me afterward and say ‘I didn’t understand but I do know’ … it’s worth every bit of shakiness. It’s worth it because I didn’t have that, and I’ll go through a hundred times worse if I can give that to somebody else.”
Following Zitka’s speech, battery operated candles were passed out and the crowd assembled to march in a loop along Dodge St. Cards with chants were passed out and participants were encouraged to follow along with chant leaders.
The event concluded back where it began in Memorial Park.