Students, alumni and staff met in front of Magnolia Ballroom and made their way to Front Campus in the late twilight on April 4. Lanterns guided the way along the path, and signs with inspiring quotes and facts about sexual assault relating to college students lined the sidewalk.
2006 was the first year GC held its own “Take Back the Night” event, an international event that honors victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in all forms, and 13 years later the event still has just as much of an impact.
“I have witnessed the impact of sexual assault and violence on many students, and giving them a voice and the ability to realize that they aren’t alone and have others who support them is so important,” said Melissa Gerrior, Program Coordinator of GC’s Women’s Center.
Gerrior has been involved in Project BRAVE and “The Take Back the Night” events for the last five years.
One by one, survivors took their turns telling their stories, their struggles and their triumphs. Among the survivors were friends, family and staff who also took turns offering support and words of encouragement.
“We have done the signs and chanting out our anger, but this year we wanted to try something new,” said Jennifer Graham, director of the Women’s Center. “We wanted to give survivors the chance to be heard. This year is going to be about listening.”
For graduate student Jessica McQuain, the focus on listening to survivors’ stories is what brought her out to “Take Back the Night.”
“I come because I think it is a really hard story to tell, but it’s easier when there are other people with the same story,” McQuain said. “I come to tell my story and help other people tell their story.”
The night ended with a candle lighting and a moment of silence in honor of those who had lost their lives to sexual violence. The participants of the event formed a circle around the stage, on which so many survivors had told their stories earlier that evening. Together in solidarity and unity, the flames from the single white candles illuminated Front Campus.
“Using common statistics on the prevalence on sexual assault on college campus, we calculated that 18 out of every 100 students on GC’s campus experience sexual assault or violence before graduation,” said Staci Levine, a junior psychology major and a coordinator for the event.
“‘Take Back the Night’ gives the students on our campus a place to be able to share the stories and feel supported.”
Photo by Maggie Barnhardt | Contributing Photographer