Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sexual violence survivors Take Back the Night in Tampa

TAMPA — Emotional testimonies ringed downtown's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

Love should not hurt.

Love is not abuse.

Never again.

Written on T-shirts hanging on clotheslines strung around the park, those messages came to life Sunday as survivors of sexual violence and their supporters spoke out at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay's annual Take Back the Night.

The day marked "a celebration of transformation" for Cynthia Clark, a survivor of sexual abuse who gave the Tampa Bay Times permission to print her name.

Working with the Crisis Center, her perspective has shifted from victim to survivor.

"It's no longer, 'This is something that happened to me,' " said Clark, 37, of Davis Islands.

She stomps her foot and shouts: "It's, 'This is what I did! This is how I healed!' "

In the time since the episode happened in another state, she has met her husband and moved to Tampa.

Her husband, 40-year-old Courtney Connell, was among 273 men who took a pledge not to remain silent on sexual abuse.

"It builds the commitment," Connell said. "It's more than just saying it."

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Ian Beckles led the pledge alongside Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan and former state Rep. Jim Davis.

Take Back the Night has outgrown its roots in Hyde Park, said Marilyn Bray, the center's outreach and empowerment coordinator. The annual event drew more than 100 volunteers and about 80 collaborating organizations to Hixon park this year.

"We're all in this together," Bray said. "We don't have to suffer in silence."

A statistic repeated throughout the day: One in four women experience some form of sexual violence. For men, it's one in six.

Tampa police Chief Jane Castor called upon the community to spread the understanding that violence against women is unacceptable.

"It's everyone's responsibility," she said.

University of South Florida student Matthew Rooney felt inspired to take up the cause.

"It's really a men's issue," said Rooney, 28, a volunteer with Men Stopping Violence Against Women. "It's up to us to speak up and stop the violence."

At Sunday's event, hundreds reveled in a flash mob and followed survivors in an empowerment march around the park, past law enforcement officers standing watch in front of their vehicles with the lights flashing.

During a candlelight vigil, survivors and supporters guarded their lights carefully against the wind to spread a flame from a single candle.

At the end of the night, some survivors took turns standing at a microphone, letting their words amplify into the big city space. Through poems and stories, they spoke of rape and survival.

People lingered late, past dusk, to listen. When they left, they walked past the clotheslines of T-shirts again, the messages still strong.

To a woman named Karen, her family scrawled in purple marker on a shirt:

"We are so proud of you. You won, you walked away & stayed alive for us."

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

Sexual violence survivors Take Back the Night in Tampa 04/29/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 29, 2012 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile

    World

    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.
  2. Rays blow lead, rally, blow lead, rally again to beat Twins in 15 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates scoring a run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 28, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010990
  3. Marijuana extract sharply cuts seizures in severe form of epilepsy

    Medicine

    An oil derived from the marijuana plant sharply reduces violent seizures in young people suffering from a rare, severe form of epilepsy, according to a study published last week that gives more hope to parents who have been clamoring for access to the medication.

  4. 'I ain't fit to live': Police say Mississippi gunman kills 8

    Crime

    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — A man who got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over his children was arrested Sunday in a house-to-house shooting rampage in rural Mississippi that left eight people dead, including his mother-in-law and a sheriff's deputy.

    People embrace Sunday outside the Bogue Chitto, Miss., house where eight people were killed during a shooting rampage Saturday in Lincoln County, Miss.
  5. Kushner's Russia ties questioned as Trump cites media 'lies'

    National

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Sunday demanded to hear directly from top White House adviser Jared Kushner over allegations of proposed secret back-channel communications with Russia, saying the security clearance of President Donald Trump's son-in-law may need to be revoked.