By Andrew Smith

On April 17, 2019, at about 7 p.m., roughly 70 students gathered in the Student Union Ballroom for an evening of empowerment and healing. Described as such by the Women’s Center, Take Back the Night is an annual event for victim-survivors of sexual violence, created in collaboration between the Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP) and the Women’s Center.

Once everyone had settled into their seats, two students took the stage and offered a brief overview, contextualizing the history and importance of the event. The theme of this year’s Take Back the Night was a Mexican proverb: “They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds.”

Shirts were handed out at the start of the event with the theme printed on the back. Photo: Kara Murray

Following the introduction, a brief video was played featuring students involved in three different organizations: VAWPP, The Men’s Project, and Greeks Against Sexual Assault (GASA). Individuals in the video were asked a variety of questions pertaining to their thoughts on the importance of the event, and the implications of the aforementioned theme.

Undeclared freshman Sydney Osborne said it is important to have events like these for students to attend.

“It definitely brings visibility…On a huge campus like UConn, the only way to raise awareness for these issues is to be persistent…and to gain as much visibility as possible. That could just be one march here or doing things like getting involved with the Women’s Center at your school or with the programs through there like the VAWPP Program for e xample at UConn,” Osborne said.

Sophomore and political science major Harry Zehner said he felt compelled to attend the event.

“It’s a way for women to claim their space and a way to fight back against sexual assault on college campuses which is a gigantic problem,” Zehner said.

Signs with various empowering slogans were handed out to students before the march began. Photo: Kara Murray

Then, megaphones were handed out, the chanting began, and the march was off.

“Take Back the Night has been going on at UConn for decades, and it’s just a really powerful event for victim-survivors to heal and feel that they are in a community where they feel supported and validated…”

VAWPP ambassador Mikayla Garvin said changes need to happen at UConn regarding its approach to sexual violence.

“I think change means that people understand that gender-based violence and sexual violence aren’t just rapists jumping out of the bushes its intimate partner violence and its stalking, and there is a lot that goes into it, and I think that college students understanding that is very important,” Garvin said.

After reconvening in the Student Union ballroom, the Speak Out portion of the event began. This portion was dedicated to giving victim-survivors the chance to get up on stage to discuss their own experiences with sexual violence.

Although the speakers must remain anonymous, the stories and experiences they shared  forced attendees to recognize the pervasive nature of sexual violence on college campuses.

To conclude, a coffee house was held in the Women’s Center. The purpose of the coffee house was similar to the Speak Out, but designed to be a much smaller and intimate space for those who may have been uncomfortable sharing their stories with the larger crowd.