Tri-campus hosts Take Back the Night to support survivors, end sexual violence
Liam Price | Thursday, April 14, 2022
Editor’s note: This article includes discussions of sexual violence. A list of sexual assault reporting options and on-campus resources can be found on the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross websites.
Take Back the Night 2022, part of an international movement dating back to 1976 that aims to end sexual violence in all forms, kicked off in Rice Commons at Saint Mary’s College due to rainy weather.
Though the main event would occur later in the Dahnke ballroom in Duncan Student Center at Notre Dame, the event started with a kick-off that featured students eating food and making posters for the march.
Saint Mary’s sophomore Viviana Antimo made a sign at the kick-off that read, “you are not alone.” Antimo, a resident advisor (RA) at Saint Mary’s, said her experience talking to survivors inspired her sign.
“Every time I’m talking to someone and they’re going through an experience, it’s very traumatic, or its not going well for them, I always say ‘you’re not alone,’” Antimo said. “I say it out of the heart.”
Antimo said she hoped the event would inspire other survivors to speak out.
“I think there’s so many voices unheard,” she said.
Saint Mary’s director of student involvement and advocacy Liz Coulston Baumann said Take Back the Night shows the need for collective action on sexual violence.
“In order to create a culture that does not allow interpersonal violence and expects every single person to be a part of that, it takes all of us to be a part of that solution,” Baumann said.
Baumann said high sexual violence statistics combined with underreporting make supporting survivors a crucial act.
“I think it’s really important as a community to come together to support the survivors on our campus, in our greater community and in our world,” she said.
Sophomore Maggie Sullivan carried a sign that read, “no is a statement, not a question.” She said the sign emphasized that saying “no” to sexual acts should never need any further questions.
“The girl says no, that means no. You don’t keep questioning her honor, that was her answer,” she explained.
Sullivan, who said she was sad to have not attended last year’s Take Back the Night, said she was glad to see fellow Saint Mary’s students attending the event.
“Not that everyone has gone through something like [sexual violence], but everyone’s here to support [each other] because it’s not just a school, but we’re honestly like a big sisterhood, and I really love it,” she said.
Participants then walked to Duncan Student Center at Notre Dame. There, they met in the Dahnke Ballroom for the “Speak Out,” where survivors were invited to share their experiences of sexual violence. Organizers of the event set the stage as a safe, confidential space to share stories.
Before the event began, Notre Dame student body president Patrick Lee reminded the audience to be conscientious.
“It is important to remember that what is shared here, stays here,” Lee said.
For nearly two hours, various students shared experiences of sexual violence, sharing both personal emotions and words of support for fellow survivors.
Saint Mary’s junior Francesca Giuliano said the event was both empowering and sad. She said she felt the women who spoke were inspiring but also that it was saddening to know that there were many more voices that went unheard.
“I’m really proud of seeing their strength, but some part of me is still kind of sad seeing the amount of women that are affected by sexual violence here knowing that there’s some, like me, who weren’t able to speak up,” she said.
Baumann, who formerly served as the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) coordinator, said hearing stories of sexual violence is never easy.
“My full time job was listening to these stories, and yet, it is still very difficult for me to listen to them back to back to back,” she said.
The emotional intensity of the night, Baumann said, is important to bear but also to be mindful of.
“As empowering as the night is, it is still extremely draining, and I, like everyone else, have to take time to take care of myself after such a big night,” she said.
Following the “Speak Out,” Take Back the Night participants marched from the ballroom to the Howard Hall chapel for a candlelight vigil service honoring sexual violence survivors.
While marching, students sang chants aiming to combat sexual violence.
“No more fear, no more fright, we are here to take back the night,” one chant said.
Saint Mary’s senior Veronica Terrell, who was marching with a sign in her hands, said attending Take Back the Night was important to her as an ally to victims of sexual violence.
“I know a lot of people very close to me… that have been sexually assaulted. I’m definitely here as an ally to survivors,” she said.
Terrell said she hopes the event and its movement can work to create change, “not just in the number of assaults that happen across our tri-campus community, but everywhere.”
The Saint Mary’s Bellacapella opened the vigil service with a performance of “Quiet”, by MILCK.
Holy Cross College director of student activities Carolyn Kitz said the event was about solidarity, welcoming people of all faith and backgrounds.
“For those who have been affected by violence of any kind, we honor you for your courage and walking the path of healing and wholeness,” Kitz said.
After the service, students concluded the night by walking down to the Grotto to place candles honoring survivors.
Saint Mary’s student body president Elly Hanson said she hopes Take Back the Night will help inspire “more people to come forward with their stories when they feel ready, but also know that they’re supported by everybody.”
“I’ve experienced sexual assault in my life and to see my friends and people that go to my school talk about their experiences is very hard,” Hanson said. “But it also reminds me that we’re all here for each other and that they have that support from the student body. It means a lot to see so many people come out to an event like this.”