Accompanied by police escorts and displaying handmade posters, people taking a stand against relationship and sexual violence marched the streets of campus Tuesday for Take Back the Night.
Danica Pape, Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center co-coordinator, said the first step in creating a culture of safety on campus is to raise awareness about relationship and sexual violence, and Take Back the Night is an opportunity to do so.
“Take Back the Night is held annually at MU to increase awareness about relationship and sexual violence, in a visible and active way,” Pape said. “We hold this event to get students, faculty, staff and community members a chance to reclaim their safety at all times in all places. We know that we’re all affected by violence, whether it is directly or indirectly, and tonight we just really want to show MU and the Columbia community that we don’t tolerate violence and we will continue to support survivors until this violence stops.”
The first Take Back the Night march occurred in October 1975 following the murder of Susan Alexander Speeth, a young microbiologist, who was stabbed to death while walking home alone.
“Women were told to stay inside their homes and not go anywhere at night for their own safety,” Pape said. “The women responded by asking why the solution was focused on women. Restricting their movement, their life and their work responsibilities -- it just doesn’t make sense. These women banded together and took to the streets to symbolize unity and united effort to reclaim their effort of movement.”
MU organizations dedicated to fighting relationship and sexual violence were present, one of which was Stronger Together Against Relationship and Sexual Violence. STAR is a student-run organization that aims to plan events to raise relationship and sexual violence awareness on the campus and in the community.
“Just know that it doesn’t end here,” STAR member Brett Dinkins said. “That is the most important thing that you can take away from tonight. We have to take back Mizzou. We have to take back Columbia. We have to take back Missouri. One of the ways you can do that is to get involved with STAR.”
RSVP member Katlyn Keller echoed Dinkins’ remarks about ending violence on campus, adding that RSVP is available for anyone feeling the need to talk about relationship and sexual violence.
“We’re available in the Center of Social Justice for anybody who is looking for information on these issues,” Keller said.
Jimmie Jones, Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault leader, told the audience his organization is looking to make a comeback on campus this year.
“MARS died down a few years ago, but I’m looking to bring it back this year,” Jones said.
Green Dot advocates Tracey Latimore and Kim Scates spoke next, informing the audience how to perform a “green dot.” A green dot is essentially any action performed with the intention of preventing relationship and sexual violence.
“We can end violence, one green dot at a time,” Latimore said.
To invigorate the crowd in the moments prior to the march, Women’s Center staff member Struby Struble spoke a few words reminding the participants of their reason for attending the night’s festivities.
“This is our chance to take it to the streets,” Struble said. “This is the night we have when we get to go out there, get out there loud, and make the campus pay attention, because this is a safe place. There are our streets, and nobody is taking them from us.”
Sophomore Alice McElroy said the march had a powerful effect on her.
“It was really empowering,” McElroy said. “It got better as it got darker because it’s called Take Back the Night. I know coming from a big metropolitan city like Chicago, this was really empowering for me.”
After the march, participants were encouraged to attend a speak-out in the Center for Social Justice, which adhered to RSVP’s assurance of confidentiality.
“The purpose of this speak-out is to allow victims, survivors, allies or anyone who has been affected by relationship or sexual violence to share their experiences and express how they feel about tonight’s events and the effects of violence and a whole,” RSVP Co-Coordinator Holly Hanover said.