Victims speak out at Take Back the Night

Laura Schocker

It was supposed to be a chance to catch up with a high school boyfriend after her first quarter at Northwestern. After he took five or six tequila shots, it turned into a sexual assault.

“He made the entire incident out to be my fault. He made me feel guilty for something he did,” the speaker said tearfully. “I still want an apology and I know I’ll never get it.”

Her testimony was the first survival story told at The Rock Thursday night at the annual Take Back the Night rally and march against sexual violence. The event, first held in 1986 and organized by College Feminists, featured three other survival stories, a presentation by Women’s Center Director Renee Redd, and speeches by representatives from the local community to discuss resources available for victims.

“Take Back the Night is important at Northwestern primarily because of the silence around sexual assault and the shame people feel about it,” Redd said. “Speaking about it makes it more real.”

NU provides many resources for students on campus, Redd said, some of which are the result of student activism and people having the courage to speak out.

Students began to gather at 7:30 p.m. at The Rock where they heard the stories from the first two survivors.

“He seemed so charming and trustworthy,” said the second speaker. “But then, I’ve always been a bit over-trusting.”

As dusk fell over campus and the wind picked up, she continued to tell her story to a crowd of about 200, many of whom wiped tears from their faces and linked arms with friends for support.

“It’s frightening that this still happens,” said Christian Appel, a Weinberg sophomore who said he came to show his support as a fellow human being, not just as a man.

“We need to show the community and university that as much as we may reform as a society, these problems still exist,” said Appel. He added that one way to effect progress is through events such as Take Back the Night. “It’s very inspiring that people find the courage to speak. But at the same time, it’s scary that such machismo and masculinity can cause this to happen.”

After the first group of speakers was finished, the crowd marched through campus chanting, “No more silence, no more lies; We will not be victimized.”

Under police escort, the marchers wove through the sorority and fraternity quads and stopped marching in front of Technological Institute, where two more students shared their stories.

“It’s OK to want respect. It’s OK to want a guy to hang out with you,” one of the speakers said. “You’re body is more important than just a sex thing. You are worth it.”

The entire experience is overwhelming and emotional, said Laura Hadden, co-chairwoman of Take Back the Night and a Medill sophomore.

“It’s natural to feel angry that something like this could happen here at Northwestern,” she said.

After the final speakers, the group had a silent march to Norris University Center. The silence was punctuated only by the traffic on Sheridan Road and the occasional tearful sniffling as they made their way to an open-mic session in the ground floor of Norris.

“It’s unfortunate that we need to have an event like this,” said Erica Brown, NU’s assistant chaplain. “But it’s empowering to gather together and see the courage of the survivors.”

Proceeds from the event’s T-shirt sales prior to Take Back the Night will proceed Rape Victim Advocates of Chicago.

Reach Laura Schocker at [email protected]