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Lights Out: UNH is taking back the night

Contributing Writer

Published: Friday, November 8, 2013

Updated: Friday, November 8, 2013 04:11

Students in residence halls across campus looked out their windows Thursday night to see 130 students marching the streets, protesting sexual assault. 

“Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, no means no!” UNH VOX member Sam Thatcher yelled over a megaphone, and was soon echoed by the rest of the crowd. All these students were marching for Take Back The Night, a foundation created to help end sexual assault and all forms of sexual violence.

UNH VOX, a student-run organization focusing on contemporary feminist and social justice issues, hosted the event because sexual violence and assault are still an issue. 

“One in five women are raped in college campuses,” Jess Wojenski, a facilitator for VOX, said. “That’s obviously a huge issue and it’s not acceptable. Everyone should feel safe wherever they are.” 

 

The crowd of students walked all around the campus streets as a way to make this point, and that people should not have to worry about walking around at night. The whole time they were walking, a different chant was being yelled. 

“Two, four, six, eight, no more violence, no more rape,” Thatcher said as the crowd walked down Edgewood Road and turned onto Strafford Avenue, chanting loudly in front of student apartments and sorority and fraternity houses. 

Walking down the road, people started to come out of their residences too see what the commotion was about.

“What are you protesting?” a few residents from Lord Hall said out a window. The crowd gladly answered their question, with some people yelling “sexual assault,” while others yelled “rape,” and some just yelled “take back the night.”

Even when the crowd was not chanting, people could tell what they were walking for by looking at the signs being held by the group. The signs ranged from “End rape culture” to “My dress is not a ‘Yes.’” 

As the crowd kept walking, they passed the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) building and started chanting, “We love SHARPP, we love SHARPP.” SHARPP was a co-sponsor for the event and one of the most important organizations on campus when it comes to this topic. 

SHARPP members were also present at the event throughout the night.

“Our role is to have student advocates, who have gone through training, to be advocates for survivors and to be there in case anyone should be triggered or have a hard time,” Maggie Wells, a SHARPP education and outreach coordinator, said.

After walking down Main Street, the crowd returned to the Great Lawn in front of Thompson Hall. When everyone arrived, they formed a giant circle and the mood immediately went from energetic to serious and somber as everyone was given a candle to light. There was then a moment of silence for all the survivors, victims and everyone affected by sexual assault. 

Following the moment, there was a speak-out, where students had the opportunity to share their stories about how sexual assault has affected them.

“The speak-out was really powerful last year, which is why we wanted to do it again this year … it’s [a way] to share your story in a safe place,” Emily Sorey-Backus, secretary for VOX, said. For the next 20 minutes, students shared stories of incidents that a few of them had never told to anyone except their family and close friends. 

While students talked about their experiences, 130 other people listened and silently clapped at the end of their stories. It was all they had to do to let the students sharing their stories know that they had support. 

After they finished sharing, Thatcher got in the middle and asked everyone for one last chant before the group left.

The last moment of the night was 130 people chanting, “Take back the night.”

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