UMass activists ‘Take Back the Night’

By Chelsie Field

Hannah Cohen/Collegian File Photo

About 50 people rallied and marched around the University of Massachusetts campus as part of the Center for Women and Community’s annual “Take Back the Night” event Thursday.

“Take Back the Night” is an internationally held event aimed at raising awareness about the discomfort many women experience walking alone at night. The event also acts as a safe and supportive platform for survivors of sexual violence to share their thoughts, stories and experiences.

This year’s event began on the steps of the Student Union, where a handful of attendees delivered speeches to the crowd.

From there, the group of activists mobilized for a march around campus, chanting and holding homemade signs. Among the 16 different chants on an event handout were “Survivors unite, take back the night,” and “Women’s bodies, women’s lives, we will not be terrorized.” The activists marched silently through the the W.E.B. Du Bois library’s learning commons before trekking across Haigis Mall to the New Africa House – home to the CWC.

Most who attended the march stayed for a brief gathering at the CWC. Attendees continued to share stories and experiences as well as debrief about the march. The group sat in a circle, which expanded to the length of the room, listening attentively to the handful of personal accounts and feedback from fellow event participants.

Event organizer and CWC Educator Advocate Alexa Brunton began organizing “Take Back the Night” in January, never having been part of it before.

“It’s a bit overwhelming for me right now that four months of work just now is done, but it’s a great feeling to know that there was a space for survivors and allies to come together,” Brunton, a junior history major, said. “Everybody seemed really happy and excited and empowered, which is my goal.”

She thought the turnout “was awesome.”

“I was worried at first, but people really came out and they stayed for the whole event,” she said, adding that there was “a perfect amount of people for the space.”

Freshman astronomy major Aedan McCarthy attended the event with his friends to show his support, he said, as well as make a statement that sexual assault also affects men.

“It’s an obviously really big issue, rape culture and all that, and I wanted to show my support,” McCarthy said.

“There are men who are interested fighting [rape culture,” he added.

McCarthy said coming from a small town, some of the event’s content felt “a little foreign” to him.

“There were a lot of people here, and it was heartbreaking how many people spoke out,” he said. “I mean, it was good that they spoke out, but it was heartbreaking that they had to.”

Freshman communications student Dianna Bronchuk said “Take Back the Night” made her feel “strong.”

“As a woman, I feel very hopeful and very united with everyone here and the people who are here in spirit,” she said. “And as a person, just in general, I see this collaboration of men and women here, and it brings hope and joy that people of both genders want to stop it.”

The CWC offers a 24-hour hotline (413-545-0800) which is available to anyone affected by sexual violence.

Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected]