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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Tri-campus community marches for sexual assault survivors

Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross came together Thursday evening to participate in the Take Back the Night march in support of sexual assault survivors. Senior Meredith Mackowicz, who took the lead in organizing the event, said a number of different groups on each of the three campuses were involved in the march’s success. “Holy Cross — it was their dean of students and a couple of their interns. Notre Dame — it was the [Gender Relations Center] with the director John Johnstin and a few of his interns, and then Saint Mary’s [Belles Against Violence Office], specifically the Events and Campaigns committee put on the event,” Mackowicz said. Mackowicz stressed the importance of supporting sexual assault survivors especially in universities. “College campuses like ours started this movement as a stance against the unfortunately high rates of sexual assault during the college years, raising awareness about sexual violence, domestic violence and relationship violence, assault and stalking,” Mackowicz said.

Take Back the Night is more than just a march, Mackowicz said.

“Tonight we march together in solidarity so that we can take back the night and reclaim our campuses,” Mackowicz said. Take Back the Night began at Saint Mary’s for Mackowicz and other participating Belles and concluded at the Grotto for a prayer vigil. The evening featured an event titled “Speak Out” in the Dahnke Ballroom where attendees listened to the stories of sexual assault survivors as well as a march across Notre Dame’s campus “to raise awareness about the issue of sexual violence that affects us all so deeply,” Mackowicz said.

Due to the sensitive nature of the event, resources for emotional support were available throughout the night, she said.

While the march commenced at Lake Marian on the College’s campus, the tri-campus community came together to support all those in attendance.

“Our tri-campus community recognizes the importance of having a safe place for survivors to share their stories and a better government support system,” Mackowicz said. 

Sophomore Becca Ward, who attended the event, said the march helped highlight women’s stories. “I think this is just an event that is important for community building, kind of that awareness of people’s situations, because I know there were others here who I know, but I didn’t know their stories,” Ward said.

Junior Anastasia Hite said she was excited to see how this march will impact attending females’ views their identities as women and college students.

“I think it’s really neat to be a woman at Saint Mary’s and participate in an event like this because it’s kind of like taking back the power and being able to just feel safe in this space,” Hite said. “That can be kind of hard, but it’s important and just being able to do that in a group is really great.” 

Mackowicz said the event would not have been possible without campus-wide support from many different clubs and departments.

At the end of the evening, Mackowicz said she hoped the dialogue impacted participants and encouraged them to feel more comfortable discussing sensitive topics like sexual assault. “I think if I could have people walk away with one thing, is that a lot of people they know have stories, and a lot of the times people they don’t know have stories just like theirs,” she said. “I think the coolest thing about tonight is how many people got up and said, ‘This is the first time I’ve said this too,’ or ‘I never thought I’d do this, but.’ Just giving people that confidence to not just exists in a space like that, but to exist everywhere on campus.”