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SMC student group hosts ‘Take Back the Night’

| Thursday, April 20, 2017

Students, faculty and staff from Saint Mary’s College, University of Notre Dame and Holy Cross College will break the silence surrounding sexual assault during the annual Take Back the Night event.

“The goal of Take Back the Night is to re-establish that our campuses are safe places to be and that we don’t tolerate sexual assault on our campuses,” Abigail Spica, a junior student advisory committee member for the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) events and campaigns committee, said.

“We break the silence to take back the night,” she said.

The name of the movement is based on people associating night on a college campus as the space where sexual assault would occur, Spica said.

Connie Adams, director of BAVO, said in an email that Take Back the Night is an international movement dating back to the 1970s, and is a unique way to generate awareness, stand in solidarity with victims and promote healing associated with sexual assault.

Overt and subtle victim-blaming reinforce feelings of self-guilt and shift the blame from perpetrators to victims Adams said. She said this reinforces he silence surrounding sexual assault, which is a crime of silence.

“Survivors deserve a space where they can share their stories, use their voice, and be heard,” she said. “Take Back the Night provides this opportunity for survivors.”

During Take Back the Night, survivors will use their voices through the during a “speak out” event. Saint Mary’s students will meet at Lake Marion at 6:30 p.m. for a Kick Off Event, and join with Notre Dame and Holy Cross student en route to O’Shaughnessy Hall on Notre Dame’s campus for the speak out — an entirely confidential space where students are invited to share their stories of sexual assault, Spica said.

Students will then take posters and march from O’Shaughnessy Hall to the Grotto to raise awareness about sexual assault. The march ends during a prayer vigil at the Grotto at 9:15 p.m.

“The different components [of the event] are important for healing for sexual assault survivors and making a change within our community,” Spica said. “The march aspect promotes visual awareness about what is going on in our community, the speak out is an opportunity for community members to hear what is going on, and the vigil is a restorative action piece that show people we are a community and that we are here to support them.”

Adams said she has been involved with planning Take Back the Night since 2010 and in that time the most noteworthy evolution is the growth of participation from students, faculty and staff, with this year unique because it is the first year Holy Cross College has been actively involved in the planning process.

“Planning takes place over the course of months with leadership and dedication from students and staff at Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross and Notre Dame,”  she said.“ … This collaboration echoes our mission of solidarity around violence, a primary purpose of the event.”

Students from all three campuses are encouraged to attend, because the event is a strong way to show support towards survivors of sexual assault is to break the silence, Spica said.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of silence around sexual violence,” Spica said. “We don’t talk about it. Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross are supportive of people who have experienced violence, and this is a way to show survivors that we’re here to support them.”

Adams said she encourages people to participate, because Take Back the Night is a way to hear those who are silenced and gain a greater awareness to the realities of sexual violence and its impact on survivors and communities.

“By speaking out and addressing this prominent issue and need of our time, students become one with a long tradition of advocacy and compassion,” she said. “Hopefully Take Back the Night will offer more than a mere awareness, but strengthen that awareness to inspire action.”




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About Kathryn Marshall

Kathryn Marshall, Saint Mary's College '17, is a Biology and Humanistic Studies double major. Follow Kathryn on Twitter @kmarshallSMC

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