By Lindsay Emery
Today was my friend Rebecca’s birthday! We call her Ellis, which is her last name. We felt bad that she wouldn’t be able to celebrate her birthday out and about so we decided that we would celebrate in the best way we could think of — with a surprise! My other friends Lindsay (funny, I know) and Deanna decided we would meet at the Chappaqua Train Station and park our cars more than six feet away. Our friend Ellis thought it was merely a get-together, but I had brought a handmade card (no stores in our midst) and a piece of cake my mom had made the night before to surprise her.
When we all arrived, we gathered around and I announced our surprise. I placed the yellow cake with chocolate frosting (an Emery favorite) in the neutral zone between all of our cars. I brought one candle and a lighter to make it a festive occasion. I placed the cake on the ground and tried to light the candle albeit it was an extremely windy day, so we sang a very fast ‘Happy Birthday.’ We laughed as Ellis ate her cake with a spoon and gloves, our new normal. We watched children riding their bikes in the parking lot that would normally be beyond packed on a typical Tuesday evening.
Later that night, I attended Take Back the Net. Unlike the typical on-campus event called Take Back the Night, Take Back the Net joined sexual assault survivors and allies from colleges across the country in one space: a Zoom lecture. As a Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisor, I am normally required to go to the Take Back the Night event on UR’s campus. This year, we were listed as resources on a big document that was sent out in the Zoom chat, so we figured it would be a good idea to be there so we would know what was discussed.
The night was just as powerful as it would have been on campus. Twenty sexual assault survivors described their stories and how they were able to thrive after. It was inspiring and I was proud of everyone that spoke and attended. I hope that we will be able to do our own virtual Take Back the Night for just the University of Richmond’s campus.