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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

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Tri-campus community marches against sexual violence in 'Take Back the Night' event

Wednesday afternoon and evening, students and faculty members of the tri-campus community joined together on Marian Island at Saint Mary’s College to kick off the annual “Take Back the Night” event.

Students handed out “Believe Survivors” tote bags, signed the annual “Take Back the Night” sign and made posters.

Part of an international movement which dates back to 1976, “Take Back the Night” aims to give survivors of sexual violence a place to share their stories with each other and fight back against perpetrators of sexual violence.

This year’s activities included a march from Saint Mary's Marian Island to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, where SMC students met up with students from Holy Cross College and Notre Dame for a prayer service. 

While marching across campus, students held signs with different sayings including “Intoxication does not = Yes, NO means NO” and “Sexual Assault isn’t a Game, Bodies aren’t Points, There is no High Score.”

Many upperclassmen from the tri-campus community have been a part of “Take Back the Night” for many years, including Saint Mary’s senior Madeleine Winston who opened up the night with a speech at the Grotto. Notre Dame students Chloe Lestitian, Sylvia Garcia and Mia Moran led the gathered community in readings from the Quran, a Hebrew song and a list of intercessions gathered by student leaders. After each intercession, those gathered were asked to say, “Let us believe so that hope is not extinguished.”

Winston emphasized the importance of the event for her.

“'Take Back the Night' is really a night where individuals who are survivors of sexual violence, intimate violence and stalking have the ability to really speak about their experiences without the impact of having to justify what happened to them,” she said.

Winston wrote on her “Believe Survivors” bag, “It’s not my shame because it was never my choice to hurt someone else,” a phrase she said helped her remind herself that she wasn’t the one who decided to hurt another person. 

The group then marched to the Dahnke Ballroom for the “Survivor Speak Out” event, chanting “Shut out the darkness, shine your light” among other phrases.

The “Survivor Speak Out” event allows survivors to share their stories in a safe space, free from mandated reporting, surrounded by fellow survivors and allies.

Recently appointed Saint Mary's BAVO coordinator, Alexa Zapata, joined students throughout the night. As one of the confidential resources at Saint Mary's, she said she wanted to be there to “put names and faces out there for people that need help.”

Zapata also said she wants “people to feel heard and recognized if they’re going through something, have gone through something, or know of anyone that has gone through something … [so] that they don’t feel alone, that they have a place to go.”

Also present were student leaders from throughout the tri-campus community, including Holy Cross College student government association president Joseph Stokes, Saint Mary’s student government association director for external affairs, Katie Theriault and Notre Dame student body president Dawson Kiser.