Students march to end violence

By Mylin Batipps
Social Media Editor

Sharp voices echoed off the College’s residential and academic buildings as students marched and chanted across campus to protest sexual assault during the College’s 22nd annual Take Back the Night on Tuesday, April 21.

Kicking off the event at the AIMM Building Amphitheater, sophomore early childhood education and women and gender studies double major Brianna Dioses read a slam poem called “One Color” alongside junior history and secondary education major Dane West. According to Dioses, sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time — as the poem suggests.

“It doesn’t have to be an alleyway with a stranger that tried to kidnap you,” Dioses said. “It doesn’t always have to be like that.”

Take Back The Night started in 1973 in Los Angeles as a protest for pornography and serial killings of African-American women in California, according to Erin Shannon, a junior English and women’s and gender studies double major. Another protest was organized in 1975, in which Philadelphia protesters rallied in response to the murder of microbiologist Susan Alexander, who was stabbed to death while walking home alone.

Forty years later, Take Back The Night still stands and is adapted by organizations all over the country, according to Shannon. The event, traditionally hosted by AVI, was run by WILL this year.

“Thousands of colleges, domestic violence shelters, race crisis centers have held events all over the country,” said Shannon, WILL’s executive chair and organizer of this year’s march. “So this (event) is one part of a much larger legacy of Take Back The Night.”

For 22 years, the College has taken part in the national initiative to spread awareness for sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Students from all corners of the campus watched this year’s march, as the protesters chanted, “2, 4, 6, 8 … No more date rape,” and “Take back the night, the time is near … We will not be controlled by fear.”

When the student protesters returned to the AIMM Building Amphitheater, alumna of the College and former WILL e-board member Natalie Serra took the platform and expressed her gratitude for the College continuing the annual march.

“I’m very grateful that you invited me to speak tonight, and I’m grateful that a space like this exists for us,” Serra said to the students.

Dusk quickly filled the sky and the night turned to be an emotional one, as Serra explained shortly afterward that she was sexually assaulted once while in law school.

“I lost some of the trust I had in people who weren’t there for me like I needed them to be,” she said. “But I actually came back that year to (the College’s) Take Back The Night. I knew that even though I didn’t know the students here anymore since I had graduated, I knew that this space was available as a support network. And ultimately, that was part of my healing process.”

Students followed Serra’s lead by taking the platform of the amphitheater and sharing their emotional stories. Tommi-
Estefan Granados, a junior self-designed indigenous studies and women’s and gender studies double major, said he was really young when a babysitter violated and took advantage of him.

“I don’t understand it,” Granados said. “But I keep talking every single year at these events because I just grew up being silent. I was told that my opinion didn’t matter … that I didn’t matter … that I would never be enough for my parents or enough for her. But now I realize I do have a voice and I do matter.”

Sophomore English secondary education major Jenna Burke said she learned a very important lesson about her experience.

“On any level from an interaction with a stranger to someone you know, you should never have to be afraid of being in a situation with them — whether it’s the night time or the day time,” Burke said. “It’s about not having to be afraid of anyone and letting them know that you’re not afraid because you know what consent means to you.”

According to Shannon, Take Back The Night is a way for students to regain ownership of their dignity and to support each other in every step of the way.

“It is a safe space for people to reclaim their right to feel safe, and it’s really important to me because some of the most important people in my life have actually survived sexual assault,” Shannon said. “So this is probably my favorite WILL event because of that.”

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