Women and allies came out in full force at this year’s Take Back the Night event on April 21, 2016. About 200 students gathered in Stafford Commons to show their support for survivors of sexual violence and to let their voices be heard. Take Back the Night is one of the final events of NC State’s observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Women’s Center organized and hosted events throughout the month of April to educate and empower the NC State community.
Take Back the Night began by a rally. A group of professional staff members spoke about supporting survivors and creating a campus free of sexual violence. This group of speakers included reporting and advocacy resources such as the Counseling Center, Office of Student Conduct, Campus Police, GLBT Center, Fraternity and Sorority Life, The Movement Peer Educators and, of course, the Women’s Center. Following the rally, an emotionally charged group of students followed The Movement Peer Educators as they led the march. Students’ anger, passion and hope could be heard from great distances as they reclaimed our campus. The march proceeded to Talley Student Union, where the large group transitioned into a more intimate group for the Survivor Speak Out. In this space, survivors were able to share intimate stories of experiences they had. It was truly beautiful to see how much support and love flooded the room as survivors had the courage to speak out.
This year marked the 29th anniversary of the Women’s Center’s annual Take Back the Night (TBTN). Take Back the Night’s history spans the globe, starting decades ago as a way for women to reclaim the night as a safe space where they did not have to fear for their lives. Since the start of TBTN, women and men have come together in solidarity to reclaim the night. Here at NC State, our TBTN is a bit different. As opposed to focusing on the violence that women experience, we choose to focus on the violence that all of our students can potentially experience. In particular, we focus on the issue of sexual violence, which impacts students regardless of gender identity, social class, race, religion or sexuality. We also chose not only to reclaim the night – knowing that most cases of sexual violence are non-stranger and happen at all hours of the day – but reclaim the campus as a safe and supportive space for survivors and students.
As a whole, Sexual Assault Awareness Month was truly inspiring. It was inspiring to see young survivor activists speaking out in such powerful ways, like Sofie Karasek, this year’s featured guest speaker. It was inspiring to see survivors allow us to be part of their healing process as they painted t-shirts to be displayed for the Clothesline Project. It was inspiring to see how many students and student organizations were truly engaged and concerned about the issue, groups such as Students Advocating for Gender Equity (SAGE) and the SigEp Fraternity. The Women’s Center hopes that we can carry this sense of solidarity, hope and charge into the next school year, ensuring that all survivors of sexual violence feel supported and safe within our Wolfpack community.
Sara Forcella is rape prevention and education coordinator in the Women’s Center.