Averett University Hosts “Take Back the Night” event with Haven of the Dan River Region

Posted on November 3rd, 2017 by Danielle Staub

By Ashley Bowman
Special to the Averett Office of Marketing and Communications

Averett University hosted its first “Take Back the Night” event on Monday, Oct. 23. The University’s Women & Gender Studies service-learning class, as well as three introductory freshmen IDS classes, teamed up with Haven of the Dan River Region, a local non-profit organization aimed at providing services and shelter to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Danville/Pittsylvania County area.

Survivors, community members, students and faculty filled the Student Center for the event. Many survivors told their stories and encouraged those that have dealt with domestic or sexual violence to speak up.

Adriene Odom was one of the survivors to discuss her own experiences of abuse, detailing that the loss of her father led to her seeking comfort in the hands of her abuser. Odom hoped that by sharing her story with the community, others would be able to gather the courage to come forward.

Brigid Belko, director of experiential learning at the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness (CCECC) at Averett, organized the event with the help of Haven’s executive director, Lisa Caviness, as well as Dr. Catherine Clark, assistant professor of French and English and director for study abroad at Averett.

Belko and Clark agree that service-learning is a big part of the culture at Averett, and this partnership with Haven further exemplifies just how beneficial hands-on work in the community actually is.

“The WGS class learned about and met with Haven before the event, then worked on creating a visual display for the event that would engage the community (the bulletin board with post-its, the t-shirts and window quotations) and boost the event’s visibility,” said Clark. “They will continue to work with Haven throughout the semester. The IDS classes were invaluable as volunteers during the event, taking charge of food, decorations, organizing participants and recruiting friends to attend. I was very proud of how student-driven the event became.”

Haven chose to partner with Averett because of the sense of community the University has built.

“Averett takes great strides to educate and empower all of its students and recognizes the need to help educate. Averett is known as being a community university, one that engages with community area non-profits to help build a better sense of community for students, as well as residents,” said Caviness. “Averett is very supportive of our mission and goals to help end violence, as well as working with students to engage in community volunteerism which in turn, create a stronger, healthier community.”

Caviness went on to elaborate that while domestic violence is a concern for everyone, youth are especially vulnerable.

“Haven wanted to partner with Averett in order to reach a large population of young adults that are at risk as there are more reported cases of sexual assault during a freshman student’s first three months of university,” said Caviness.

Events like Take Back the Night are important not only to survivors, but to the surrounding community as well.

“Creating a public dialogue about this issue is essential to developing safe communities in addition to fostering a supportive and healing environment for survivors,” Clark said.