Hundreds of students, faculty, administrators and community members showed up to The Haven Project’s annual Take Back the Night event Wednesday.
Free T-shirts were distributed in the middle of Putt-Delaney Courtyard prior to the march around campus that began at 8 p.m. and ended with a speak-out, during which sexual assault survivors were given an opportunity to openly talk about their experiences in a safe, public forum in the Hadley Union Building Ohio Room.
The event started in the quad between Ruddock Hall, Delaney Hall, Putt Hall and Suites on Maple East, with crowds gathering as early as 7 p.m. to enjoy giveaways and other engagement opportunities.
At 8 p.m., multiple speakers thanked everyone for attending and led chants as they marched by Wallwork Hall, through the Oak Grove and around Northern Suites before ending at the HUB.
The HUB served as the end of the march but not the end of the event.
The open-mic-style speak-out session for survivors, supporters and anyone in attendance offered people to share their thoughts or experiences with sexual assault in order to show unity among those who shared those experiences and act as a therapeutic period of discussion.
During the speak-out, more than a dozen victims shared their stories and offered words of encouragement for others in the room to do the same if they felt so inclined.
Because the subject matter was sensitive, organizers had therapy dogs available to help anyone who was upset or uncomfortable by what was said and pipe cleaners for people who felt that fidgeting with something could help their anxiety during the event.
Throughout the speak-out, different people and organizations offered emotional support and information to anyone who needed or wanted it.
This included the Alice Paul House and student representatives from ROTC.
A few moments went by before the first person came to the podium to speak, and that first survivor said she was “really nervous.”
“We’re here,” an audience member responded to encourage her. “You can do this.”
While the event was emotional, survivors and organizers could not stress enough how happy they were that events like that exist and that people were advocating for and listening to them.
Nearly every person reiterated that it was through their support systems – new and old – that they were and are able to recover from what has happened to them.