College Feminists teamed up with SHAPE, the Women’s Center and other organizations for a rally at the Rock and a march through campus Thursday night as part of “Take Back the Night,” an annual event against sexual assault and violence on campus.
Organizers hoped to raise awareness and support victims of sexual violence. About 30 students and faculty, including Dean of Students Burgwell Howard, gathered at the Rock for a rally and a candlelight vigil before the march.
“I just don’t think people realize how often it happens and really what constitutes sexual assault or sexual violence,” Kristen Wekony, a Weinberg senior and former Take Back the Night committee member, said. “It does happen pretty often; one in every four women will experience it in her lifetime and that’s a huge number.”
As the vigil ended, the students assembled to begin the march.
“Take back the day, take back the night, take back our bodies, take up the fight,” the group chanted.
Participants marched down Sheridan, attracting stares and stopping traffic. Bystanders paused and stepped off the sidewalk to allow the marchers to pass. Officers from University Police helped control traffic as the group crossed Sheridan Road and marched on.
“Take back the night, the time is here,” they continued to cry. “We will not be controlled by fear. We have the power, we have the right. The streets are ours, take back the night!”
College Feminists member Emily Raymond, with a megaphone in hand, led the march. A Weinberg senior, Raymond has attended the event every year and said she was impressed with the event’s participants.
“I’m always so amazed by people’s willingness to come forward about sexual assault,” she said. “I’m always so impressed by how brave people are, that they are willing to get up to talk about what happened to them and say this is not something they’re going to accept in their community anymore.”
Behind Raymond, supporters followed her lead, walking around Patten Gym, past Sargent Hall and a basketball court, where students stopped their games to watch.
Howard, who has participated in Take Back the Night marches before, also chanted along as he followed the group.
“I think it’s great that people have this opportunity to show support,” he said. “For the people sitting in Sargent having dinner or the guys playing basketball or the people walking down the street, it’s a reminder and it causes them to think and that’s exactly what we want.”
The night ended with a “speak out” session in Norris, where students shared their stories of sexual violence and supported each other as they listened.
“Tonight, it’s going to be powerful, it’s going to be emotional,” said SHAPE member and SESP freshman Mallory Mattimore-Malan before the session. “Hearing people talk about their experiences is going to be intense.”
When the event ended, participants from the rally said they were happy with their efforts. Wekony said she enjoyed being a part of the rally because of the enthusiasm.
“I just really love the energy while we’re marching through campus,” she said. “It’s just a really great feeling to get everybody’s attention, literally screaming as you’re walking through the entire campus. It’s a really great way to raise awareness about something people don’t think about every day.”