A crowd of about 50 students participated in the Take Back the Night march on Thursday evening, April 6. Take Back the Night is an annual event that is meant to raise awareness about sexual violence, empower one another and show solidarity with, or as, survivors of sexual assault, as Gaby Sandor ’19 said in the opening remarks.
“We welcome all members of the Brandeis community to join us at the Rabb Steps, where we will begin our march through campus, pausing at residence quads to raise our voices and share in silence. There will be space during the march for anyone who chooses to share thoughts or experiences,” the Facebook event page said.
Take Back the Night is split into two parts, beginning with a public march and ending with a private, press-free gathering of survivors, friends and supporters. Some professors as well as Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel, Chief Diversity Officer Mark Brimhall-Vargas and Provost Lisa Lynch were in attendance.
There was thunder and lightning, and rain fell as students dressed in rain coats and holding umbrellas gathered at Rabb Steps to begin the march. Organizers passed out electric tea lights to marchers. The original route of the march was altered because of the bad weather; although originally the march was supposed to begin at Rabb, move through North Quad, East, Rosenthal, Massell and the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) before finishing at Admissions, this time the march began at Rabb and went straight to the SCC before ending at Admissions.
At each stop, the marchers pause and ask the quad or space to “take back the night” with them. The area then becomes a space for survivors to share stories or statistics if they feel comfortable. Students were welcome to join or leave the march at any time depending on their comfort level.
There were also various campus resources, such as peer advocates from the Rape Crisis Center (RCC), peer counselors from the Queer Resource Center, STAR peer counselors, Director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Sheila McMahon and Survivor Advocate and Education Specialist Julia Rickey from the RCC, within the crowd to provide help or assistance to any students who felt they might need it throughout the march. These people wore orange glow sticks around their necks so they could be easily identified.
Before beginning the march, Sandor emphasized the importance of self-care and offered personalized support to survivors. “We cannot emphasize enough that taking space for oneself, either by not being at the event tonight or by leaving at any time, can be a crucial act of self-care. It is imperative that, as a community, we work to make no assumptions about who is here, who is not here and who may need to leave … please remember that healing takes many forms,” she said.
McMahon also spoke to marchers about how the work of ending sexual violence is tied with intersectionality. “Sexual violence affects people of all genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, beliefs and abilities. It disproportionately affects those who live at the intersections of multiply marginalized identities,” she said. “The work of dismantling rape culture and ending sexual violence is inherently tied to the dismantling of racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism and all systems of oppression.”
To begin the march, the group walked down the Rabb Steps toward the SCC, chanting, “2, 4, 6, 8, no more violence, no more rape.” Halfway to the SCC, the group changed the chant to, “Stop the violence, keep up the fight. No more violence, take back the night.”
After arrival at the SCC, marchers formed a circle in the atrium. Normally, at each stop the marchers would shout into the space to ask the people in the area to “take back the night” with them, so instead the group shouted in the atrium, “Hey, Brandeis, take back the night!” three times.
A few stories taken from Take Back the Night’s official website were read before the space was opened up to anyone who wanted to speak; no one shared at that moment, so some statistics were read.
Then the march continued on to Admissions, with marchers chanting, “Shatter the silence, stop the violence.” Similar to the SCC, once the group reached Admissions marchers formed a small circle in the lobby. More stories from the Take Back the Night website were read before the space was opened up for anyone to speak. Once again, no one chose to speak. This ended the public portion of the march.