Hundreds of Rutgers students 'Take Back the Night' in march against sexual assault
More than 250 students, staff and community members took to the streets of the Douglass and College Avenue campuses in the annual Take Back the Night protest against sexual assault, organized by Women Organizing Against Harassment (WOAH) for the fourth consecutive year.
School of Engineering senior, President of WOAH and lead organizer of the protest Maci Nordone said the demonstration was in protest of sexual and gender-based violence within the community and in support of survivors.
The protest kicked off with a rally at College Hall on Douglass campus at 7 p.m. Students were invited to make posters and the first 100 students who arrived received free t-shirts.
The rally featured a performance by Vagina Monologues, titled “My Short Skirt,” and a speech by the Assistant Director in the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance Laura Luciano.
Luciano said it was important for her to be there in order to provide assistance and resources to student organizers so that they can do the best they can.
“The other reason I’m here is because this is a really emotional event for people … so I want to make sure the participants here really feel supported and have people to talk to if they need that. And finally, I really love and admire our students that are willing to put themselves out there and to try to be change agents,” she said.
Trained confidential advocates were involved in the march in case students needed someone to talk to, Luciano said.
Luciano is involved in the organization of the event from the beginning, she said.
“It’s really powerful when we’re all together like this. You know, what I hear from survivors all the time is that they feel alone and they don’t feel like people will believe them or support them, you know we get those messages every day on social media and in rape jokes, and then when we have events like this, where there are so many people just here to support each other, that’s really strong and powerful,” Luciano said.
After the rally, the protest took to George Street, where demonstrators chanted while holding signs and posters. They marched from Voorhees Mall where a Speak Out portion allowed members of the community to speak.
The all-female a capella group ShockWave performed, and students performed poetry or shared their experiences with sexual assault. Nordone said eight people signed up to share experiences and poems at the Speak Out, but they then opened up to the public where many more community members stepped forward.
Abby Schreiber, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and a member of ShockWave, performed a poem about her rape, which she said occurred her first year of college, and said it was the first time she publicly called her assaulter a rapist.
“The reason I wanted to speak was because I feel like there are so many men, and women, and people who are walking around and have genuinely no idea that they ever assaulted a person — they think that they just got laid, they think that this was an incredible night, they think it was just a one night stand and they don’t know (about) the trauma that they left people in, and that’s absolutely the case in my situation. And if we don’t educate these people about what is assault, what is consent, then it’s just going to keep happening, and that’s how we end the culture,” Schreiber said.
The demonstration had over 40 co-sponsoring organizations, which is double the number of co-sponsors from last year, Nordone said.
“(This is important because) sexual violence doesn’t go away, and (the march) is a way to say every single year ‘hey, this is not tolerated within our community and we’re here to stand up against it and support survivors’ … I hope people walk away feeling really empowered from the event, and supported as well, that they have friends within the community that support them,” Nordone said.
Luciano said a few possible outcomes from the protest include giving individuals a sense of empowerment and can be a springboard for other actions.
“I think that it raises awareness about the fact that this kind of violence is happening on our campus community and all over the country, and so I think that’s really important. And I think it has the potential to let survivors know that there is support and help available to them. Survivors often operate believing they’re completely alone and that there’s nobody here to help and I think a program like this, an event like this, can really bring everyone together in that way,” she said.
Chloe Dopico is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @ChloeDopico for more.