Break the Silence Educates, Inspires Students

Only the sounds of sneaker soles on hardwood could be heard during the first few points of Friday night’s game against Spoto. The voices of the players and coaches echoed through the gym, but the crowd sat in complete silence. That is until the Knights put their ninth point on the board. The gym erupted. The silence was broken.

Break the Silence from Robinson Knights on Vimeo.

Students, teachers and athletes came together Friday night to participate in the second-annual Break the Silence basketball game to raise awareness for domestic violence. For the first nine points of the game, the crowd was asked not to speak. Their silence represented the powerlessness of the American women who are abused every nine seconds. Their cheering represented a victory over the stifling nature of domestic violence.

The first Break the Silence event took place last winter, after Katie Cassedy (’16) and Andrew Petterson (’16) decided to draw attention to an issue they saw as overlooked.

“I was one of those people that really didn’t think domestic violence was as big of an issue, until Katie came to me one day.” Petterson said. “We toured the Crisis Center and I learned that a lot more people are being affected by this crime than I initially believed.”

This year, both the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and The Spring were present at the event, offering their services to those who need it.

“We really just want to get the word out there about what we have to offer,” said Crisis Center representative, Jessica Breslin. “If anybody here has been a victim of domestic violence- to make sure that they know we’re here, this is why we’re here, and that there are people out there who care.”

Emily Whayne, Social Change Project leader from The Spring, believes that the last two years of Break the Silence have opened the eyes of those who need help and those who are looking to give it.

“People are being way more educated,” Whayne said. “More young people have actually come up and wondered, ‘what part can I take in affecting the life of a human being?’”

The Spring’s peer education program and focus on youth involvement reflects the relevance of this issue to teenagers and adolescents. According to Whayne, 16-to-24-year-olds experience the highest rates of dating violence.

Statistics courtesy of National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Spring.

Dan Bramel from the Crisis Center sees Break the Silence as evidence that the youth is interested in changing that statistic.

“It’s clear that a lot of young people are really getting involved in reducing the stigma and raising awareness for domestic violence as an issue,” said Bramel.

If the event’s turnout is any indicator, Bramel seems to be on the right track.

Although having large participation and spreading awareness were the main objectives of Break the Silence, Petterson says that the smallest impacts are worthwhile.

“If we can make at least one difference, or change the life of someone here,” Petterson said, “that’s all that this event really means to us.”

Scroll below to see the local social media response to Break the Silence: