Powerful’ personal stories to punctuate yearly protest

Lauren Murrow

One in seven college-aged women have been raped, according to Renee Redd, director of the Women’s Center at Northwestern.

Sexual assault has become one of the most prevalent crimes plaguing campuses across the country. Tonight at the Take Back the Night rally, students, faculty and staff will gather at The Rock to protest sexual violence.

Take Back the Night is an annual march against sexual assault and rape sponsored by the Women’s Coalition. About 1,000 people will attend, estimated co-chairwoman Lindsay Shadrick.

On a notoriously apathetic campus, Take Back the Night is the largest display of student activism, said Shadrick, a Weinberg sophomore.

The event provides students with the chance to speak out against sexual assault and to share their experiences with others.

“At Take Back the Night, we as a community want to be very strong, clear and supportive in our response to those who have experienced sexual assault,” Redd said. Counselors from the Women’s Center will be present at the event to listen and to offer support.

Take Back the Night begins at 7:30 p.m. with a speaker from Horizon Center, a Chicago-area community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Horizon offers sexual assault counseling and advocates anti-violence education.

Proceeds from Take Back the Night T-shirts and donations collected throughout the week will benefit Horizon.

At The Rock speakers will have the opportunity to tell their stories — including some personal tales of experiences with sexual violence.

“The most powerful part of Take Back the Night is seeing the handful of Northwestern students who choose to be our speakers,” said co-chairwoman Vickie Cook, a Weinberg senior. “What they do is so brave, I’m just stunned by it every year.”

Following the speeches, the crowd will march through the Sorority and Fraternity quads chanting against sexual violence. The march will end at the Technological Institute with more speeches from students.

Afterward, there will be a silent procession to Norris University Center for an open mic session.

The event brings to light a crime that often goes unreported, leaders said. According to Redd, less than 5 percent of college women report incidences of rape throughout the United States.

“I think a lot of Northwestern students underestimate how often sexual assault happens here,” said Cook, who also is a survivor of sexual assault. “In the fall we were all up in arms because people’s purses were being grabbed. It’s horrible to be mugged, but much more violent crimes happen here and no one talks about them.”

By encouraging openness and unity, Cook and Shadrick said they hope to create an environment where NU students feel they can report incidences of sexual violence.

“Seeing students get up in front of 1,000 people they don’t know and sharing their stories is an incredibly moving experience,” Shadrick said. “For me the event has been life-altering.”