Take Back the Night: ‘We are united. We will Believe. We can end it’

Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter

Since 1998, “Take Back the Night” has been an event designed to establish a safe, empowering space where survivors of sexual assault and their allies unite to share their experiences and take a stand against sexual violence, said Catherine Christie, Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy and Support Center director.

Christie said normally the VPAS Center is geared towards prevention and bystander education, as well as discussing reporting options and advocacy services, but “Take Back the Night” exists primarily to support victims of sexual violence and as an opportunity for survivors to share their stories, and, for those who may not want to speak out, an opportunity to feel connected to other survivors through those stories.

“When students were sharing their stories, there was clapping, there was encouraging,” said Christie, “there is that feeling that we care about you, we want to support you and your place of healing, or your place of empowerment, or your place of need. Whatever it might be, that is what the rally is all about.”

This year’s theme was “We are united. We will Believe. We can end it,” which focused on rejecting the victim-blaming phenomena enforced by rape-culture. It also promoted uniting the campus in embracing the fight to end sexual violence once and for all. The rally featured Rose Richi, University of Connecticut Alum, survivor and activist who shared the stage with Lady Gaga during her 2016 Oscar performance, as the keynote speaker and Mike Sampson, senior athletic training major, Hickerson Hall resident advisor, and Geraldine Cherubin, senior psychology major, VPAS peer educator, as hosts.

Jodie Lonkoski, junior public health major, said, “Take Back the Night” is tremendously influential in educating students about sexual assault.

“It is just really powerful, I think it changes people’s perspective and I think that is really important,” said Lonkoski. “People get a new outlook on what ‘Take the Back the Night’ really means and what we can do to help.”

Lonkoski, said she and her Delta Phi Epsilon sisters attend “Take Back the Night” every year because they feel it is important to show support to victims of sexual violence. She added, unfortunately, the night usually conflicts with their regularly scheduled meetings and always had to leave early, but this year that was not the case: that she and her sisters are excited to finally get to see the rally in its entirety.

Elizabeth Brady, master’s student in business administration and VPAS graduate intern, said VPAS began preparations for “Take Back the Night” in the beginning of February, where they established student and employee committees for planning and preparation and also organized the layout for their new location. Last year “Take back the Night” was featured inside the Ballroom in the Adanti Student Center and this year the event was moved outside.

Brady said the outdoor location spurred new activities and displays in their pre-rally festivities, which is intended to get people “pumped-up” for the march later on.

“We wanted to include different displays, like the clothesline project, different activities like ‘blowing your stress away,’” said Brady. “We wanted to have a lot of fun interactive tables that normalize the conversation about sexual violence. At the same time, we also [included] resources, like the [Sexuality and Gender Equality] Center, Counseling Services, and marriage and family therapy.”

Brady said, while the rally’s message is profound, she hopes students expand that profound message into their daily lives.

“While ‘Take Back the Night’ is a really important event, we should be taking back the night every day,” said Brady. “We should be standing up against sexual violence, we should be making an effort to change the culture that we live in and to eliminate sexual violence, not just once a year, but every single day.”

Photo Credit: Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter

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