Remembering survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence

A vigil in 16th Street Park honored survivors during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Camille High (left) lights the candle of the person next to her. Photos by Daniel Israel.
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Camille High addresses the importance of speaking up for survivors.
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Flowers float away after being ceremoniously tossed into the water by the docks.
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Camille High (left) lights the candle of the person next to her. Photos by Daniel Israel.
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Camille High addresses the importance of speaking up for survivors.
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Flowers float away after being ceremoniously tossed into the water by the docks.

“Although our candles may not stay lit, the fire burns on in our hearts,” said Camille High, organizer of the “Shatter the Silence” vigil at 16th Street Park. The wind kept blowing out the candles but not the resolve of the attendees.

High, a cofounder of Black in Bayonne, hosted the vigil in honor of sexual assault and domestic violence victims and survivors during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. High holds the event every other year or so to talk about the “uncomfortable subject” and hold space for those affected.

“People showing up and rallying in Sexual Assault Awareness Month is hard and difficult at times, but we still have to hold space for the women and for the men that we know that have in the past or are currently still experiencing these horrible things,” High said. “Today we honor them, whoever they are, wherever they are.”

High began holding the event in honor of a woman who inspired her to be an advocate. The woman posted her story of sexual assault on social media. The bravery of coming forward resonated with High, who promised to advocate on her behalf.

“I do this in honor of her and her courage to speak up and speak out until the day she died,” High said. “She spoke up.”

High hopes to empower others as she was empowered.

Resources available

High offered local hotlines that can provide help to those affected by sexual assault or domestic violence.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is at 800-656-4673. The Hudson S.P.E.A.K.S. rape crisis center hotline is at 201-795-5757. For domestic violence services, call Women Rising at 201-333-5700.

Camille High highlights the importance of speaking up for those affected by sexual assault and domestic violence.

“All of these numbers you can contact 24 hours a day,” High said. “If you are frustrated, if you’re aggravated, if you need help trying to help somebody else, these numbers can help. You are not alone. You are loved. Protecting yourself and defending yourself looks like you getting the resources you need.”

She continued: “The most important thing is, providing this information. The more information we have, the more powerful we are.”

‘Holding space’

Attendees wrote names and messages on the candles for those they were honoring.

“We hold space for each of the people that you wrote on the candles,” High said. “Those people are important. In order for these things to no longer be, we have to speak about uncomfortable topics. This is an uncomfortable topic. And although a million people are not here, the assignment is still done.”

High lit her candle and that of the person next to her, which was repeated around the circle. Attendees whispered something in honor of the name or message written on the candle.

Afterwards, High read affirmations: “I have the right to be free from abuse. No one can take any power away from me. I will protect myself no matter what. I will never give up. I will keep going”

Flowers float away after being ceremoniously tossed into the water.

Ongoing conversation

In closing, High thanked the small yet powerful group who attended the vigil. She said that it was important that people speak out on the “uncomfortable” subject and provide those who need it with information.

“If it was just me and this candle, I was going to do this and I really appreciate people understanding the importance of the people having this information,” High said.

Following a prayer, everyone was given a flower. The April 27 vigil then moved to the dock, where flowers were tossed into the water in honor of victims and survivors.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.