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Tri-campus community to band together for ‘Take Back the Night’

and | Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Students from the tri-campus community will gather Wednesday evening for ‘Take Back the Night’ (TBTN), an event intended to provide awareness and support for victims of sexual violence.

Saint Mary’s seniors Julia Sturges and Kayla Zellmer, co-chairs of the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) Events and Campaigns Committee, worked on the college’s involvement in TBTN.

“‘Take Back the Night’ … is for [the] campus communities to march in solidarity for those who have been impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking, which are all forms of power based personal violence,” Zellmer said in an email.

Emma Farnan | The Observer

Students march across Notre Dame to advocate for sexual violence prevention in the 2017 ‘Take Back the Night’ event. The annual occasion aims to unite the tri-campus community and ends with a prayer vigil.

The event is part of a national non-profit organization of the same name, Sturges said. According to the national TBTN website, the organization aims to “create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives.”

The tri-campus occasion will begin with Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students, Sturges said, who will walk from Lake Marian at Saint Mary’s to the LaFortune Student Center at Notre Dame.

“[At LaFortune], survivors and other people who have been impacted by sexual violence and stalking [will] have the opportunity to share their experiences in a speak-out,” Sturges said.

The event will end with a march around Notre Dame’s campus that will highlight places were sexual assaults frequently occur.

“This allows people to chant and reclaim spaces that have been affected by sexual violence, specifically the quads around Notre Dame’s campus,” Sturges said. “… The whole purpose of the event is for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories in a safe setting and for people to walk in solidarity with them and show their support.”

Ending at the Grotto, Sturges said a prayer vigil will follow the march.

Several months of planning went into forming the event, Zellmer said.

“Monthly meetings [were held] with organizers from [Saint Mary’s], Notre Dame and Holy Cross to make decisions regarding marketing and advertising design, co-sponsorship, catering [and] event spaces,” she said.

This tri-campus effort is among several reasons for students to attend, Sturges said.

“It’s an awesome opportunity to learn about how sexual violence has impacted our own community,” Sturges said. “It feels like a very safe space to a lot of people, which it is most of the time, but there are definitely experiences that people have had that nobody talks about.”

Attending ‘Take Back the Night,’ as well as other events put on by BAVO throughout the year, gives those who have been affected by sexual violence the chance to hear they are not alone and gives others the opportunity to offer support, Sturges said.

“‘Take Back’ the Night’ is a super empowering, educational and inspirational event that all students can benefit from, even if they personally have not been impacted by power based personal violence,” Zellmer said. “The event symbolizes strength, healing and empowerment, which all students can gain from attending.”

John Johnstin, assistant director for violence prevention at Notre Dame’s Gender Relations Center, said TBTN has been put on for over 10 years. From academic major departments to residence halls and housing offices, almost 40 different groups from across the three campuses are listed as sponsors for the event.

“Students may attend all or individual parts of the event,” Johnstin said in an email. “[TBTN is intended] to provide our communities an opportunity to publicly take a stand against sexual violence.”

Johnstin said TBTN began with the inaugural event in October of 1975 in Philadelphia after the murder of a woman there. It was given its moniker in 1977. Since the late 1970s, the event has spread across the United States.

“In the years since, thousands of colleges, universities, women’s centers and rape crisis centers have sponsored ‘Take Back the Night’ events across the country as a way to speak out against sexual violence,” Johnstin said.

With an expectation of 200 students to be in attendance, Johnstin said the TBTN event provides an opportunity to bring the three campuses together.

 “[The campuses can] come together as communities in support of safety, well-being and the respect of each individuals human dignity,” he said.

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About Claire Kramer

Claire Kramer is a senior staff writer majoring in American Studies with minors in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy (JED) and Theology. A proud native Kansas Citian, she never lets anyone forget that indeed, the Royals won the World Series.

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