Wielding signs and candles while marching across campus, nearly 100 students marched in support of victims and survivors of dating violence, sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence, during the Violence Against Women Prevention Program’s annual event, Take Back the Night.
At 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, sounds of support through lines like “Claim our bodies, claim our rights, take a stand and take back the night,” filled the air, as police officers escorted demonstrators throughout the march.
Part of the UConn’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Take Back the Night was an evening of sharing, support and healing for those who have experienced gender-based violence and assault.
Before the march was an introduction in the Student Union ballroom, where several groups participated in performing and speaking out against sexual violence, including Poetic Release, Greeks Against Sexual Assault (GASA) and a capella groups Rubyfruit and The Rolling Tones, whose songs of heartbreak and healing added to the catharsis of the night.
“Just seeing how many others have gone through it and survived – it’s empowering,” said Maisie Albis, a second-semester a member of Phi Beta Phi and member of GASA. “It tells you, you’re not alone. You can get through it.”
After several presentations and speak outs by various campus groups and survivors, students and supporters then gathered outside the Student Union with candles for a march across campus.
Holding signs with phrases such as “Break the Silence: Stop Rape” and “My body, my choice” and chanting supportive slogans, the crowd made its way to Celeron Path, known more infamously as the “Rape Trail,” for a special groundbreaking ceremony known as the Celeron Path Beautification Project.
Spearheaded by former Undergraduate Student Government Sen. Stephanie Sponzo, the project has been one of the many ways that students are trying to end the perpetuation of rape culture and acceptance on campus, as well as create a safe space for students to travel and live, through beautifying the trail and renaming it.
To symbolically kick off the project, a group of students planted five cherry trees on the trail by the roadside. Sponzo said they will bloom in April, which is Sexual Awareness Month, serving as a reminder to stay aware of gender-based violence.
“Tonight was a huge step,” said Sponzo, adding that a lot of people learned about the project. “This has a personal place in my heart since I have experienced sexual assault before. I think we should be vocal with our experiences – and this is not only for UConn women, but women everywhere.”
The march rounded past the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and looped through North Campus, turning around after the tree planting at Celeron and returning to the Student Union ballroom, where survivors were encouraged to speak out about their experiences. Students snapped their fingers and raised their arms in solidarity, as men, women and people of all genders shared stories of grief, frustration, betrayal and, ultimately, healing.
“It really helps us to know that we’re not alone,” said Tysia Glober, a second-semester nursing student at the event. “There’s a community to help us stand up for our rights.”
Marlese Lessing is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.