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Students show solidarity at Take Back the Night

Students show solidarity at Take Back the Night

By Jess Linde

Section: Featured, News

April 24, 2015

More than 200 members of the Brandeis community marched across campus on Tuesday, April 21 as part of Brandeis’ annual Take Back the Night event. Students, faculty and members of the administration walked in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence on campus, rhyming in anti-assault chants and holding lit candles. Stopping in each quad, the group called on fellow students to join the march, before opening a silent space for members of the community to share personal stories, assault statistics and other testimonies relating to taking back strength and personal agency following trauma.

The event was co-sponsored by the Brandeis Office of Prevention Services, Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV), Students Talking About Relationships (STAR), the Brandeis Rape Crisis Center (RCC) and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA). Administrators in attendance included Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel, Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist Sheila McMahon and Dean of Students Jamele Adams. Brothers of Brandeis’ Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity also came to show their chapter’s support for the event and survivors, and were the only representatives of male Greek life present. The majority of the crowd was a diverse showing of Brandeis students, with students of all years, racial backgrounds and sexual and gender identities.

The march began at the Rabb Steps, where students were given candles, both wax and electronic. Standing on top of a stone bench, Provost Lisa Lynch expressed her admiration for the crowd. “Sexual violence and abuse takes power from survivors and victims, and wants to dehumanize them and keep them scared,” Lynch said. “It is incredible to see you all here; lets take back some power.” RCC Volunteer Coordinator Samantha Daniels ’16 and B.SASV member Evelyn Milford ’16 then took the stand to explain the parameters of the event, outlining the march’s route and identifying members of STAR, the Queer Resource Center and the Psychological Counseling Center who were able to assist people experiencing any emotional distress.

The crowd then walked through residential quads, starting with North, making its way down to Massell, through the Shapiro Campus Center and ending the event on the Great Lawn. At each stop, the marchers formed a circle and shouted three times, beckoning students of the quad to join them. While only a few students came out to join the circles, a good deal came to windows to listen as their peers spoke, also snapping their fingers and making other expressions of support for those gathered.

It was the student testimonies and stories that had the most emotional effect. Students, many with prepared statements, came forward to speak about sexual assault and violence they had experienced during their time at Brandeis. Often told while fighting back tears, the testimonies illustrated emotional trauma and abuse in the aftermath of assaults, while also speaking to the event’s goal of creating a space to regain agency, self-worth and a feeling of safety. The effect was palpable, and most of the crowd was brought to tears as well. While the speakers remained anonymous, some addressing the crowd as complete strangers, there was also a feeling of full support.

Unlike the Take Back the Night event in 2013, this week’s event was unmarred by heckling students or other disturbances, though Adams and other staff members kept close watch while people were sharing. Students who had never learned one another’s names before the event embraced each other, crying together and offering support to those who shared. By the end of the night, sexual violence and assault’s disturbing prevalence on campus was abundantly clear, but so was the sense of community and support the people had for their fellow Brandeisians.

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