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Walkers shed light on female violence

Katie Kohler | Thursday, April 27, 2006

Students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross joined in the Take Back the Night walk Wednesday – an event geared at bringing attention to the issue of violence against women.

Catherine Pittman, an advisor for Saint Mary’s Campus Alliance for Rape Administration (CARE), said the event was “a way to show [victims] that they are not forgotten.” This year, Notre Dame took on a larger responsibility in planning the march with Saint Mary’s, she said.

“We really appreciate their efforts and are happy to work with them and Holy Cross students on the event,” Pittman said. “When all campuses are working together, we feel a common bond is being formed to combat the violence of sexual assault.”

Saint Mary’s students met at the Rock Garden and later gathered with other Take Back the Night participants at the Grotto. The tri-campus group then marched around both campuses. The event concluded with a speak-out, which allowed victims of sexual assault to come forward and share their stories.

“Our hope is that one day, the night will be safe for all to enjoy,” Pittman said. “Women won’t have to fear the dark, but will feel secure in a community that has rejected violence against women.”

Take Back the Night – which has been held on campus for more than ten years – has a long and storied tradition, with marches originating in Europe during the 1970s. The first United States march was held in San Francisco in 1978.

Take Back the Night marches typically occur in the month of April in conjunction with National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Saint Mary’s CARE vice president Jen Hanlon said she has been to four Take Back the Night walks during her time at the College, and seven in all.

“Each march I have participated in has left me feeling more empowered and moved, as well as frustrated because it is still necessary to hold these events in our community,” Hanlon said.

Pittman said violent attacks occur “every year on campus” that make the event necessary.

“It would be nice if sexual assault was not a problem on the campuses, but in reality, it is a major problem,” Hanlon said. “Too many of our women and men are being violated and all too often the perpetrators are those who we are in classes with, socialize with and trust.”

Pittman said she hopes this year’s event will help decrease sexual violence on all three campuses.

“Denying women their safety is not right, and on this one night, we all walk together under the stars chanting and singing,” she said. “We reclaim the night together.”

According to statistics from the United States Department of Justice, one in four women will graduate from college having been victimized by an attempted or completed sexual assault.

The event was sponsored by an alliance of clubs and organizations including Notre Dame’s Feminist Voice, Campus Alliance for Rape Elimination, gender studies department and student government, as well as Saint Mary’s Feminist United, Campus Alliance for Rape Administration and the Women’s Resource Center.