The Day of Silence was first started in 1996 at the University of Virginia and eventually spread its way to more colleges and high schools. The UA also participates every April as a part of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month with the goal of creating a society that does not tolerate abuse.
AJ Born, a public health senior, writes in an email that the purpose of the Day of Silence, which will be held on the UA Mall from 10 a.m-2 p.m. in front of Old Main, is “to bring attention to the bullying, the violence, and discrimination that LGBTQA+ people face on a day to day basis.”
The ASUA Pride Alliance will set up tents for students and faculty to sit, providing a safe space for those taking a vow of silence. In addition, it will host a small resource fair for students to access campus and community resources for those who may be affected by harassment, bullying or violence.
Born, who is one of the Pride Alliance co-directors leading the event, writes that “people take a vow of silence to symbolize how LGBTQA+ people are silenced.”
According to Born, the event will educate and inform about health disparities LGBTQA+ people are faced with and provide faculty and students an opportunity to learn how to be better allies to the community.
The silence will be broken at 5 p.m. at the Second Street Stage, where there will be a Taiko drum performance by Odaiko Sonora, slam poetry and free pizza.
“This event is important for sexual assault victims because it recognizes that LGBTQA+ people can also be sexually assaulted,” Born writes, “and it is not just a straight, cisgender people problem.”
Born added that Sexual Assault Awareness Month is important because it shows support for sexual assault survivors, and emphasized that this is a huge, often unaddressed issue -— specifically on college campuses.
“I think that rape culture is a huge problem,” Born writes. “It contributes to victim-blaming and rapists going without punishment. It leads to people thinking that it’s the victim’s responsibility to not be raped rather than telling rapists not to rape.”
Meghan Bergerson is a senior studying psychology and political science.
“According to the 2013 Campus Health Services Health and Wellness Survey,” Bergerson writes in an email, “LGBTQA+ students reported experiencing sexual assault at the UA 200% more than their heterosexual peers.”
According to Bergerson, beyond sexual violence, LGBTQA+ people are not legally protected from harassment based on sexual orientation at school or in the workplace in many states.
“We believe taking a vow of silence is in itself a form of protest that we cannot keep losing valuable voices from our community,” Bergerson writes. “LGBTQA+ people are everywhere and when we are silenced, either temporarily or permanently, our campuses and communities suffer.”
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