Take Back the Night

By Fermina Alcantara

The Bronx Journal Staff Writer

Lehman College hosted a Take Back the Night event in April, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It was a powerful and empowering evening bringing awareness about domestic violence and sexual abuse. The event started with a moving drama written by a Lehman College student, Andre Bell.

Three featured speakers, Andrew Willis, Sheena La Shay, and Ralph Castro, delivered powerful accounts of their own experience with childhood sexual abuse. They discussed the impact of their abuse, their healing, and survival.

Survival was the theme of the evening. Sheena Lashay describes herself as a “victim, survivor, and thriver.” She has thrived as an artist and advocate for other victims of sexual abuse. She spoke about her difficult upbringing, having been raised in a cult and being the result of a rape. She discussed the subtleties of her abuse, explaining the touch didn’t feel bad. “It wasn’t violent. It didn’t hurt.”

After years of depression and self-destructive behavior, she realized she could no longer remain a victim. A key to her survival and eventual triumph was finding and embracing her voice. She has done so through writing, blogging and art. She uses different mediums of art such as poetry and theatre as a form of self-expression and advocacy.

Ralph Castro, who shared his story publicly for the first time, also finds the value of sharing the experience. He shared the graphic details of his abuse, holding back tears at times. He equates abuse to thievery. “It is an act of stealing power. It borders soul snatching.”  He communicated his pain and rage through poetry: “The essence of youth dies…and darkness consumes the light.”

After the speakers, Sigma Phi Rho Fraternity, the only recognized fraternity on the Lehman campus, performed a step show. Then as part of the commemoration that is done internationally, a candle light vigil was held across campus.

Lehman senior, Kala Burgos, found the event uplifting because she admired the courage and resilience of the people who publically shared their stories of abuse. “It was really empowering for me because to put yourself in a position like that you’re very vulnerable,” Burgos said. “Pain is something people don’t usually express.”

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