Tonight will be the third annual “Take Back the Night” candlelight march at Williams College. For the past few years, members of the Rape and Sexual Assault Network have collaborated with members of the College community to organize this event. The group’s goal is to create a space where students can come together to show solidarity against rape and sexual assault and to support survivors and all those who have been affected by this pervasive problem. The march is an evening of men and women joining together to build community by raising awareness, breaking silence and taking a stand against relationship violence, sexual assault and rape.
At 8:45 p.m. tonight, members of the College community will gather on and around Chapin Hall steps. After a candle lighting ceremony, attendees will hear opening statements, poetry and music. The first part of the procession will lead to the science quad, where several speakers will address the crowd. The second part of the candlelight march will culminate in front of Stetson Hall with an open- mic session, open to anyone who wishes to speak. The night will conclude with a reception in the Stetson faculty lounge, where trained counselors will be on hand for further discussion. In the past, “Take Back the Night” has been cathartic for speakers and listeners alike. It has been incredibly moving to hear from so many about their views and experiences, both during the open-mic session and at the reception.
“Take Back the Night” can be surprising for those who don’t realize the widespread nature of sexual violence. Every fall, Katie Koestner reminds Williams first-years that in the United States, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men have been raped or sexually assaulted; sexual assault directly affects all members of the community. Sexual violence might not always be visible on campus, but it happens, and students must continually take a stand against it.
Each individual’s presence is immeasurably important, according to event organizers. By attending the march, students demonstrate their commitment to ending sexual violence. Such an outpouring of support creates a tremendously powerful sense of community. It shows survivors and their loved ones that they aren’t alone in their experiences and that many people care about them. It has been eye-opening for all to feel such overwhelming support. Members of the community come together frequently to watch games, lectures, and concerts, but rarely do they congregate to confront and give voice to an issue that affects all so deeply and intimately.
The organizers of “Take Back the Night” ask others to work with them towards a common goal of creating a safe and open campus environment by attending tonight’s march.