By Jessica Pate
Staff Writer

Barton students, faculty, staff members, and community members gathered around the fountain outside the Hamlin Student center earlier this month to remember victims of domestic violence and to honor survivors of domestic violence in an annual event known as “Take Back the Night.”

Those who have survived included Barton College student Courtney Perez in its annual.

Take Back the Night is sponsored by Barton College Health Center along with The Wesley Shelter.

The event began with Dr. Doug Searcy, Barto president, welcoming those in attendance. In his introduction, Searcy said “The community must unite to help those who are victims of partner violence.”

Lynne White, executive director at the Wesley Shelter, said one out of four women is a victim of domestic violence, while one out of seven men are victims. One in five teens are victims of violence or sexual assault by the person they date.

“It can happen at any age, it doesn’t discriminate,” said White.

Mara Price, a Barton psychology/English major, read the “Survivor’s Psalm,” which stated “I was a victim, I am a survivor.”

Perez said, “One in six college students are victims of domestic violence.”

Eyes were tearing up as Perez told her story of being in an abusive relationship at the age of 15. She said at 15 she thought she had found the “one.” She said he was everything she wanted and more, then everything changed.

She said her boyfriend would become controlling and she had to get his permission to do activities. She said, “He would choke me until I would do what he wanted me to do.”

He called her demeaning names in front of friends so she thought that’s how relationships were supposed to go, she said.

She said after breaking off her relationship, she blocked him from social media and deleted his number from her phone, but he would still contact her through his friends Facebook and phone numbers. He finally quit calling.

Even though the relationship had ended, she still suffered from depression and began cutting herself, she told those who were in attendance. She has been cut free since March 2015.

After Perez finished her story, a performance was given by the Barton College Gospel Choir.

The Rev. Jamie Eubanks, Barton College chaplain, told Perez how brave she was to share her story so openly and the he was proud of her.

Eubanks read names of victims of domestic violence in Wilson County, whose lives had been lost since the last Take Back the Night event in October 2014.

Forty-six names were read of which 17 were victims of murder or suicide. At the end of each group of names, which were divided by months, Keisha Parker, Student Government Association president rang the Kinsey Bell in memory of those lives that had been taken.

A candle was extinguished after names were read by representatives from various student organizations throughout the Barton campus.

After all the names were read a moment of silence was held to remember all of the victims.

Barbara Conklin, dean of the School of Social Work at Barton said, “The event is a moment to stop and reflect on the issue in ways that move us to put a stop to domestic violence.”

Taylor Baker, Barton sophomore, said, “It was a very powerful and eye opening event. The event succeeded in raising my awareness of domestic violence.” She said, “It was especially moving as Courtney shared her own personal experience with abuse.”

At the end of the event, those attendees walked the Barton mile, which is the perimeter surrounding the Barton campus, in honor and in memory of victims of domestic violence.