“I am Sarah Elizabeth Tubbs, and I am a survivor of sexual assault committed on Stony Brook University’s campus,” said the Stony Brook University alumna, who is suing the school for alleged mistreatment of her sexual assault case, in a speech at the “Take Back the Night event on Wednesday, April 29.
The Center for Womyn’s Concerns organizes the annual “Take Back The Night” event to raise awareness of sexual assault and abuse on campus.
Tubbs accused a male student of sexually assaulting her in his dorm room after a party at West Apartments last January, and she filed a lawsuit against the university for its “deliberate indifference” in the case. Tubbs, who graduated last year, is now a social work student working towards her masters at Hunter College.
The march started in the Student Activities Center and progressed down the Zebra Path toward the Island Federal Credit Union Arena. From there, the students went to West Apartments and through the footpath to Tabler Quad. Halfway through the woods, the executive board held a moment of silence for victims of sexual assault and read stories aloud that were submitted via a Tumblr page.
Curious heads popped out of windows in Sanger and Toscanini Colleges looking to see who was walking out of the woods in Tabler Quad and chanting, “Seawolves unite! Take back the night!”
“I’m excited to get the attention of everyone who is not in here and not in the march. You don’t have to be in it necessarily to get impacted by it,” Karol Perez, vice president of the Center for Womyn’s Concerns, said.
The executive board of the Center for Womyn’s Concerns has been working all semester to put on the event. The event was also run in part by the Center for Prevention and Outreach and the sisters of Sigma Psi Zeta.
“It’s far reaching because with the 135 or more [people] that we have here it’s going to reach an innumerable amount,” President of the Center for Womyn’s Concerns Katelyn Morrie said. “We want the survivors, that even if we don’t know who they are, to know that there is always support through the university and through the CWC.”
Before the march began, Dean of Students Timothy Ecklund and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Cathrine Duffy both gave speeches.
The executive board of the Center for Womyn’s Concerns said Tubbs was quick to accept the invitation to speak at the event but Tubbs said it gives her discomfort to be back on the campus at the university that gave her trouble.
“It’s always scary coming back on campus,” Tubbs said. “It’s never easy, but I’m glad that I’m able to aid in change and hopefully empower more survivors.”
Tubbs said she was nervous to speak before the event began. She repeatedly looked to her friends and family for reassurance. Her supporters rubbed her back and gave her hugs.
In her speech, Tubbs spoke in the third person about a girl she knew who was raped and could not function properly after the incident. She went on to reveal that the girl is herself.
“I have been battling PTSD for over a year with frequent flashbacks, disassociations, panic attacks, anxiety—all things I don’t want to remember,” Tubbs said.
After the speech by Tubbs, the allies and supporters relocated to Student Activities Center Ballroom A to make posters and t-shirts for the march. The marchers used electric tea lights to light up the night.
Following the march participants had the opportunity to go to three different informational sessions: “Men Against Violence,” “Active Ally Event” and “Survivor’s and Supporters Speakout.”
In her message to herself shared in her speech, Tubbs said: “You can fly and you can soar. Soar beyond the cloud you saw before. Soar beyond your wildest imagination, because you know what, Sarah? It’s time to start living the life you’ve always imagined.”