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Stories from sexual assault survivors heard

Students gathered in the Pit Friday, October 4 to listen to testimonials in order to help put an end to sexual violence.

UNC students sought to break the silence surrounding sexual and interpersonal violence during Project Dinah’s Speak Out! event Friday night.

Speak Out! UNC is an annual event where members of Project Dinah read anonymous testimonials from survivors of sexual assault and interpersonal violence.

The testimonials were posted on the organization’s permanent blog.

Project Dinah is a UNC organization that works to end sexual assault and interpersonal violence.

“We want every relationship to be free of fear and force,” said Alban Foulser, publicity chairwoman of Project Dinah.

The audience heard stories about the nature of the assaults that survivors experienced and the emotions they felt afterwards.

There were also stories of triumph and encouragement from those who overcame their trauma from sexual assault and interpersonal violence.

“They see that other people have experienced this, and even if they don’t want to come out and say, ‘This happened to me,’ they can share it and other people can hear their story,” Foulser said. “And I think that is kind of a relief for them.”

The event featured performances from a cappella and spoken word poets in between the testimonial readings.

Senior Gabriel Baylor said he came for the performance from EROT spoken word group but left with a greater understanding of the event’s message.

“I didn’t realize how deep it was going to be,” he said.

“I’ve never — I don’t think — considered some of the things, or seen or heard the stories that were presented tonight.”

Speak Out! ended with an open-mic portion, where anyone from the audience could talk about their experiences with interpersonal violence, or comment on what they had heard.

“I wasn’t really expecting so many people to come up and speak in the open-mic part about their own personal experiences, so that was really powerful,” junior Dylane’ Davis said.

Foulser said Project Dinah aims to open the eyes of the UNC community.

“They don’t really connect that probably every single person on campus knows someone who has been sexually assaulted,” she said.

Sheena Ozaki, chairwoman of Project Dinah, said events like Speak Out! create a safe outlet for survivors and showcases the familial aspects of UNC.

“What I think, at least, is that it shows survivors that they have a community here that supports them, that’s here to listen to their stories and to believe them,” she said.

Speak Out! is a night that comes with many powerful emotions, but Ozaki said the goal of it all is to encourage people to make a change.

“The point for us is to be like, ‘Yes, all of this is happening and it’s horrible, but we are here to support you and we are here to help end that culture and fight for justice.’”

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