Despite rain, annual Take Back the Night march and speakout draws crowd

Marchers carried posters condemning sexual assault before heading to ‘speakout’

Despite rain, annual Take Back the Night march and speakout draws crowd

Marchers walk through campus during Take Back the Night 2018. 

Set against the backdrop of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Women’s Initiative hosted its annual Take Back the Night event on Tuesday. Take Back the Night includes both a march and speakout for survivors of sexual assault. The event is a tradition that dates back to the 1970s and intends to break the stigma of sexual assault.

This year, that included the #MeToo movement.

“The current political climate in our country has led to discussions and movements in opposition to sexual assault and harassment,” Diya Dhaliwal, deputy director of WI, said. “With popular campaigns such as #MeToo and Time’s Up, we see a lot of folks disclosing stories on social media to bring awareness to these issues and the power dynamics that are often involved in instances of sexual violence.”

The event began with marchers walking through the campus, starting and ending at Kay Spiritual Life Center, to share their stories and experiences with sexual assault. The marchers, armed with posters condemning sexual assault, gathered on the pavement outside Kay Spiritual Life Center at 7 p.m. Batalá D.C., an all-female Afro-Brazilian band, led the group around campus after a 10-minute performance.

The students chanted and danced before filing back into Kay. They were treated to a special performance by a-capella group “Pitches Be Trippin,” before listening to survivors tell their stories.

“This is an issue that does really affect colleges, but goes far beyond them,” marcher Román Habibzai said. “In order to make sure the survivors’ narratives aren’t being forgotten, we need to shine a light and this march proves just that.”

The event was co-sponsored by Students Against Sexual Violence, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, AU PRIDE, the Wellness Center, Residence Hall Association and The League of United Latin American Citizens.

Freshman marcher Olivia Glenning praised the organizers of the event, saying that it is important for survivors to know that they were there for them to listen, provide a platform and build a safe space to heal properly.

“Especially for those who don’t have the opportunity to say ‘#MeToo’ or physically march with us as we took back the night,” Glenning said. “It is also crucial that we spread the message that sexual violence will not be tolerated by the student body.”

For Dhaliwal, it’s important for events like this to bring up discussions against sexual violence. There will be multiple events occurring on campus in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Dhaliwal said.

“It is very important to have discussions of sexual violence and consent to understand how we can create spaces for healing,” Dhaliwal said. “But these conversations can have some very heavy content and must be handled with sensitivity."

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