By Reid DiRenzo
Victims and survivors of sexual assault and violence, allies and members of the UConn community marched the streets of UConn Wednesday night for the annual event, Take Back the Night. Students chanted from the student union down to North Eagleville road to Fairfield Way. Despite some negative spectator comments and reactions, the students powered through the night with their signs and songs to raising awareness for acts of sexual assaults and violence.
“The march is like ‘No I’m angry. no means no.’ You’re going around and I think it’s unbelievably powerful,” student and Women’s Center member Alixe Dittmore said who shared her own story at the speak out held after the march.
Hannah Kalichman the student event program coordinator for Take Back the Night, announced to the audience that this year’s theme was growth, which was reflected in the event’s T-shirts and performances. The event was hosted by the Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP), a group “dedicated to addressing and preventing all forms of sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking and sexual harassment.”
The night started off in the student union ballroom where members of various on-campus organizations from Poetic Release to the Men’s Project and Greeks Against Sexual Assault spoke out for the cause.
Student Daniel Massaro, who goes by she/her pronouns, read a poem at the event with two other students and has been a member of the UConn Women’s Center for three years.
“I think the performance aspect of it reached people in a different way than just kind of telling your story,” Massaro said.
Poetic Release member and an active member at the women’s center Mick Powell also performed a poem she wrote.
“With this poem I was thinking more about reclaiming the self and loving the self despite the violence that’s done to the self by other people,” said Powell.
Students made their voices heard about the serious issues that plague college campuses, a place that many would like to view as a safe, learning space.
“UConn itself has really huge issues with violence period, but particularly sexual violence and the way sexual violence is racialized and gendered in specific understanding,” said Powell.
Many students felt that the administration had not adequately addressed their experiences.
“I’m dealing with the administration now with my own stuff and so I can say my personal experience and working with the town’s coalition and doing work at the women’s center that the administration does not do enough. It’s a game sort of like a game of cat and mouse,” Powell said.
The night set forth to empower survivors and give them a safe place to speak their mind. The portion of the night dedicated for survivors/victims to share their stories brought out intense emotional responses. Many students shared very personal experiences healing and coming to terms with what happened to them. There was not even time in the night for all students who wished to speak.
“So I decided to speak because I feel like I found my voice here and after speaking, yeah, I cried of course, but I feel incredible. It felt so good to honestly have an audience there because they care and they’re listening and then they clap for you at the end and they totally validate what happened to you when so many people don’t,” Dittmore said.