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Campuses unite for Take Back the Night

and | Thursday, April 24, 2014

On Thursday, the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s campus communities will unite in the annual Take Back the Night event to break the silence about sexual violence. 

TakeBackTheNight_GREYSteph Wulz | The Observer

A “We Stand United” banner will be visible Thursday leading the way down Saint Mary’s Road to the Grotto at Notre Dame. 

Senior co-chair of the Student Advisory Committee for the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) Galicia Guerrero said Take Back the Night is an event that stems from the Take Back the Night national foundation, which is dedicated to promoting awareness of sexual violence. She said Take Back the Night is hosted nationally on the last Thursday in April on college campuses across the country.

Amanda Downey, director of educational initiatives at the Gender Relations Center at Notre Dame, said the event will begin with a candlelight vigil service, followed by a march around campus. The night will conclude with a speak out.

“A march and a speak out are standard components of [Take Back the Night] for many campuses and organizations,” she said. “The Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame community have included a candlelight vigil as part of the event because it is a meaningful way to begin the evening in prayer and reflection. 

“The dinner following the speak out was started last year. We wanted the opportunity for us to gather as a community and share a meal after the sharing of stories.”

Guerrero said Take Back the Night provides both campuses an opportunity to stand in solidarity about an issue that affects them both.

“[Take Back the Night] shows that, together, both Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame students are committed to taking a stand against attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate violence,” Guerrero said.

Sophomore Ashley Watkins serves as a BAVO Ally on the Events and Campaign Committee. She said the purpose of Take Back the Night is to end the silence surrounding issues such as rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and domestic violence. 

“These crimes are often labeled as ‘crimes of silence’ because the report rates for these crimes are low,” she said.

Take Back the Night would provide a sense of unity between the two communities and allows for open dialogue, Watkins said.

“It is also a chance for survivors of these crimes to share their story and bring awareness to these serious crimes,” she said.

Campus Ministry, Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP), Safe Walk, Men Against Violence, PrismND and Shades of Ebony also participated in planning the event, Downey said. She said all groups united in their goal to stand against sexual violence.

“We are seeking to raise awareness about sexual violence and to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence,” she said. “Sexual violence affects everyone — survivors, friends of survivors, roommates, classmates — we are a community, and we need to stand in solidarity to express that we will not stand for sexual violence in this community.” 

Connie Adams, director of BAVO at Saint Mary’s, said Take Back the Night is one of the few events on campus annually where students could share their own stories.

“I hope that it provides healing for both individuals impacted by sexual assault, but also our larger Holy Cross community,” she said.

Take Back the Night at Saint Mary’s will kick off at 5 p.m. near Lake Marian, Adams said.

“By beginning the event with a candlelight vigil, our efforts are centered in prayer and faith,” she said. “I believe it truly deepens our solidarity and reignites our commitment to prevention. I have witnessed survivors empowered through their participation.”

Sophomore Grace Adair will speak at the kickoff, Guerrero said, and then the group will walk over to the Grotto, holding a sign that says “We Stand United.” Guerrero said she and all of those involved with BAVO hoped for a good turnout from students, faculty and staff.

“[Take Back the Night] is an important event for Saint Mary’s students to attend because it shows that together as a community we are responsive and want to show support for those who have been impacted by violence,” she said. “Further, by having a strong presence of Saint Mary’s students it shows just how important these issues are in our community and further spreads awareness.

“We know that this event really has the potential to have a great impact on our community and is such a great opportunity to spread awareness as well as build a community healing and support,” she said.

Watkins said students would be impacted by the remarkable stories and experiences planned for the evening.

“Even though this is an event that lasts one night, it truly can make a big impact on the community by bringing awareness to these issues,” she said.

Other events taking place this week include the Clothesline Project and Denim Day. 

A national initiative, the Clothesline Project invites survivors of stalking, abuse or sexual violence to write a message of hope on a T-shirt that will be displayed on campus. The Notre Dame Clothesline Project will hang in front of O’Shaughnessy Hall, providing a show of solidarity and hope, a University press release stated.

Denim Day, a national movement to raise awareness about the consequences of victim blaming in sexual assault cases, occurred Wednesday to commemorate a sexual assault case in Italy that was overturned due to the fact that the victim’s jeans were tight. The judge concluded that the victim must have removed her jeans herself, thus inferring consent, the press release stated. 

Students were invited to wear jeans on this date to show their dedication to the idea that clothing choice does not indicate consent, a press release said. Downey stressed the importance of these events and the awareness they raise.

“[These issues] impact men and women as survivors but also our entire community,” she said. 

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About Haleigh Ehmsen

A senior at Saint Mary's, Haleigh is majoring in Communication Studies and English Literature & Writing. She serves as the Saint Mary's editor and enjoys coffee, guacamole and good books.

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