This piece was originally published through The Mast and at mastmedia.plu.edu
Around 70 students, staff and faculty met in Red Square for Take Back the Night, an annual rally to raise awareness of sexual assaultm on April 21.
“We here at PLU [Pacific Lutheran University] want to be heard loud tonight. It’s an opportunity for survivors, for friends, for allies, to stand up and take back what’s theirs,” said Jennifer Childres, the women’s basketball coach, who emceed the event with Harstad’s Resident Director Melissa Williams. “This night is about our empowerment.”
The group marched its way around the campus for about an hour, yelling chants of solidarity at full volume, led by cheerleaders junior Yadira Avendano and sophomore Marisol Espinosa: “I wish I may! I wish I might! Free our lives! Take back the night!” “Wherever we go, however we dress, no means no and yes means yes!”
Before they marched, survivors and allies shared stories and anecdotes of sexual assault. Vice President of Student Life Joanna Royce-Davis shared her story.
“I belong to a group of student-first educators who’ve experienced sexual assault. Somehow, we have a hard time naming it,” Royce-Davis spoke to the crowd. “The group recognizes that our stories open the doors to action, along with the stories of our students and our communities. We begin to disclose, to remove the protective covers, to shine the light.”
Not only sexual assault survivors spoke in front of the crowd, but also allies. Assistant Professor of Religion Seth Dowland addressed the crowd as an ally, bystander and supporter.
Finally, Associated Students of Pacific Lutheran University President Ellie Lapp spoke. She addressed the question of “If these acts of violence haven’t affected you, why should you care?”
“My answer […] always has been ‘Actually, I have been. We all have’ This space is full of people who have had experiences where their gender, sexuality, race, class, ability or other aspects of their identity have been used against them, used to maintain systems of power and oppression,” Lapp said. “These acts of aggression don’t have to be grand or severe.”
After all the speakers, the attendees started off around campus to the tune of “Respect! Equality! That’s the way it’s gotta be!”