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Provided via #SpeakUp’s Facebook page. 

#SpeakUp hosts poetry night in support of survivors of sexual assault, gender violence

A campus organization called #SpeakUp is hosting its third semi-annual poetry night this Thursday at Jackie O’s, 24 W. Union St.

#SpeakUp is an organization at Ohio University that focuses on gender issues and violence. It aims to create a safe, inclusive space that allows anyone who is struggling to come forward with their experiences. 

This week’s poetry night is no exception.

“We wanted to offer a space for students to feel supported, community bonding as well as having a good time,” Claudia Cisneros, president of the organization said. “We wanted to turn around a space, such as a bar, into a safe place where we all come together and embrace each other, giving and feeling support while enjoying arts, music and shared emotions.”

Cisneros, and #SpeakUp as a whole, understand how difficult dealing with abuse can be; especially to first-year students, and others just moving to Athens.

“We thought this kind of event helps students that are away from home in a transitory place to feel they are not alone, that there are many more like them who have experienced similar things,” Cisneros said.

Poetry night has been a big success for #SpeakUp. The turnout and response from those who attend give Cisneros the motivation to hold this event once a semester. 

“There were a great number of attendees in both times, and we got a lot of positive feedback,” Habiba Montasser, a first-year master’s of public administration student working toward her second master’s.

#SpeakUp focuses on more than sexual assault and violence against women. They pride themselves on their diverse following.

“We are particularly proud that it has always been a very inclusive event in terms of gender, age, race,” Cisneros said. “For us, what makes it (poetry night) particularly successful is how students, poets and non-poets felt they were able to express themselves and share with all as one.”

#SpeakUp decided a poetry night would be the ideal event to host because of the raw emotion it offers and the sense of security it brings participants. 

“Not only does it help heal,” Merissa Edsell, a junior studying social work, said. “It helps survivors who are too afraid to speak out connect to people who can help them find their voice.”

Cisneros said events like these are crucial to the importance of addressing gender inequalities and violence on campus. 

“There is so much secrecy on campus about sexual abuse and gender-based violence,” Cisenros said. “Students that have gone through rough experiences have to struggle through their academics while dealing with the experiences.”

The #MeToo Poetry Night will be beneficial to those concerned about and fighting for gender equality. 

“It is a beautiful feeling at the end of the night,” Cisneros said. “Doing the event off-campus and carefully inviting people from the community and students fosters a community bonding in a very special way.”


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