Tri-campus hosts annual Take Back the Night supporting survivors of sexual violence
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.
Late Wednesday afternoon, students and members of the tri-campus community gathered together on the shores of Lake Marion at Saint Mary’s College to kick off the annual Take Back the Night event.
Take Back the Night 2023 is part of an international movement dating back to 1976 that aims to end sexual violence in all forms. Liz Baumann, director of student involvement and advocacy at Saint Mary’s, explained the night’s events are “a time for us to just come together as a community and celebrate the time together.”
Baumann added that the events sought to amplify survivor voices.
“Then, at our Survivor Speak Out, survivors have the opportunity to share their stories in a safe space. Then we use our voices to march and chant around Notre Dame’s campus to raise awareness about this important issue and ending with an opportunity for us to pray for survivors, pray for change in our community and pray for a way forward together,” she said.
College President Katie Conboy was one of many campus leaders who attended the kickoff. When The Observer asked Conboy what portion of the night she was anticipating the most she said, “I really just want to listen and absorb the student testimonials, those experiences when I saw … the What Were You Wearing project on Monday night was so effective, because there were the narratives and the clothing that people had actually worn … it was very moving.”
Conboy went on to discuss her pride for how Saint Mary’s faces the “hard topics” of sexual assault. “I just feel so proud that we are not walking away from or shying away from these really hard topics and that we’re coming together and thinking hard about them and thinking about where we can make a difference,” Conboy said.
One of the student leaders present at the kickoff was Take Back the Night planning committee member Lucia Hadsell. Hadsell, a junior at Saint Mary’s is also a member of the Presidential Committee Against Sexual Violence, the committee chair for the Belles Supporting Belles, Sexual Violence and Human Trafficking Committee and Saint Mary’s campus’ representative for Callisto, a sexual violence survivor support program.
“Take Back the Night is such an important event for survivors because it’s a chance for them to use their voice that may have been stripped from them,” she told The Observer. “It’s a chance for the community to show their support and belief in survivors.”
Hadsell said the event she was looking forward to being a part of the most was the Speak Out.
“It’s a heavy portion of the event, but it’s very important,” she said.
Student Diversity Board President Crystal Ramirez, a senior at Saint Mary’s, said the word she would use to describe the event would be “hopeful.”
Editor’s note: Crystal Ramirez is a former associate news editor for The Observer.
“Hopeful that we can build a better community to support our survivors. Hopeful as an ally, that I can come here to the kickoff every year and learn more, grow more as a senior leader, as a student, as a part of the Saint Mary’s community,” Ramirez said.
“I’m feeling hopeful for a better community, for better days and coming to the kickoff at Saint Mary’s is always amazing, because you just see all these students come out and enjoy time together but also acknowledge that we’re here for a reason and a cause,” Ramirez finished.
Following the kickoff, members of the tri-campus community walked over to Notre Dame’s campus to take part in the Speak Out in Dahnke Ballroom at Duncan Student Center.
Editor’s note: The Observer will not be reporting on this aspect of the Take Back the Night events out of respect for the survivors.
After the Speak Out, the gathered tri-campus community members marched around Notre Dame’s campus chanting sayings such as, “Shatter the silence, shine our light! We stand together, take back the night!” and “Survivors unite, take back the night!”
Demonstrators concluded the night with a prayer vigil at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, praying for survivors of sexual assault and for positive changes in the community. They also lit candles in memory of the survivors, both in attendance and those absent.
While the prayer vigil was the closing event of the Take Back the Night programming, back at Saint Mary’s, students lit floating lanterns and set them adrift on Marion Lake in front of Haggar Hall, officially closing the night.