George Mason University students came together in an effort to bring about awareness and end all forms of sexual violence.
On Oct. 21, 2014, the annual Take Back the Night rally took place on campus. Rain postponed the event but did not stop this influential rally from taking place.
“It’s been a long time in the making,” emcee and Feminist Student Organization president Kellie White said. Take Back the Night is an international event, with hundreds of events held every year in over 30 countries. Each event includes testimonials, marches, rallies, and vigils in order to inform and protest acts of sexual violence.
Mason’s Take Back the Night rally was co-sponsored by the Women and Gender Studies Department and the Feminist Student Organization.
Speakers from WAVES, Women and Gender Studies, CAPS, the Feminist Student Organization, and Mason’s student government came to support the event and offer information about the events and programs their organizations offer.
WAVES held a Survivor Space for guests to attend after the event if needed.
WAVES representative, Olivia Gardner said, “…we are hosting a Survivors Space for survivors who may have a reaction to tonight’s event. Although the event is powerful and moving it can also stir up a lot of emotions.”
“I want to thank everyone who is out here today because I feel like what we do as clinicians and what you do as loved ones is pretty much the same where we bear witness to someone going through these really difficult stories of sexual violence,” Anchal Khanna, a representative from CAPS, said. “On behalf of CAPS, I would encourage you to connect with us if you or you know here at Mason is dealing with sexual violence.”
The event started with guests creating posters for the Take Back the Night march. Following the poster making, attendees were encouraged to come to the front and finish the statement, “My body is…”
“My body is not for sale,” “My body is mine,” “My body is my treasure,” and “My body is not a commodity,” were a few of the powerful responses to the statement.
The night continued with the reading of anonymous narratives submitted online to the Feminist Student Organization’s blog.
“I think our narratives tonight have really demonstrated that people’s bodily autonomy is more important and paramount than ever,” said White.
Speakers were then able to share their own personal stories of sexual assault and violence.
“It’s time for the victims to have a voice. How do we do that? We need a movement; we need to get people talking. We need people to feel comfortable about opening the conversation. This is what I like about events like these because you never know what’s going to spark interest and get people talking,” said one of the speakers.
Following the narratives, the Take Back the Night march began. Guests were encouraged to take a poster and an electric tea light to march around Mason’s campus, after learning chants to shout during the march.
“What I like about take back the night is that it allows for a safe space for people who have been sexually abused, where they can feel understood and inspired to speak up and share their story rather than be ashamed of it. It allows rape victims to take back ownership of their body,” sophomore Jenny Fotang said. “I also think it’s important because it inspires people like me who have not necessarily had a first-hand account to understand the consequences of having experienced such a situation, and brings awareness to speak up when you see something you know may be wrong!”
Photo by Claire Cecil.