By Melissa Proulx, Staff Writer
The rainy weather on Thursday, Nov. 6, did little to stop a message of empowerment from ringing clear through the streets of Durham.
“Claim our bodies, claim our right. Take a stand, take back the night,” chanted the roughly 100 attendees who came to the annual Take Back the Night March.
Many carried signs with similar, informative messages such as “Consent is Hot,” “Abolish Rape Culture,” “My Dress is NOT a Yes,” and “Stop Slut Shaming, End Victim Blaming.”
Organized by UNH’s VOX, a social justice organization, this year’s event was co-sponsored by SHARPP, the Diversity Support Coalition, the Peace & Justice League, the Women’s Studies Program, the Social Justice Leadership Project, MUSO, Health Services and the Waysmeet Center.
Designed to protest street harassment, sexual assault, gender-based violence, fear of walking home alone, victim blaming and rape culture, the event consisted of both the campus march and vigil that was held afterwards in the Granite State Room.
During the march, the group made its way around town, starting first on the Thompson Hall lawn and making its way down familiar and populated roads like Quad Way, Main Street and Strafford Avenue.
And in the dry sanctuary of the Granite State Room, survivors had a safe place to share their stories in order to empower not only themselves but others as well.
Most in attendance were students, some of whom had attended the event before, like senior political science major Nick Rico who had been to three others before this.
“I think it’s a good way to express something political and social,” he said as he marched with the crowd. “The whole thing is very powerful.”
Hannah Caldwell, a senior family studies major who attended the march for a second year in a row, said she made the choice to come again in order to support what she believes is an obvious good cause.
“I would do it again; I would tell others to do it as well,” Caldwell said. “The [Vigil talk] is also really empowering.”
For others, this was their first time.
Kaley Quast, a junior hospitality major, said she was disappointed that she hadn’t been able to make last year’s march but was excited to be among the crowd this year.
“I would go to anything that’s for a feminist cause,” Quast said.
The march was originally scheduled to occur back in October but was rescheduled twice due to rain — though those past forecasts did not severely differ from Thursday’s.
Jess Wojenski, a co-founder and member of VOX and senior communications and women’s studies dual major, said the group made the decision to host the event tonight regardless due to the multiple delays.
“It’s crazy that that’s been the forecast [for every Thursday in the last few weeks],” she said as she huddled with the gathering crowd under the overhanging of Thompson Hall before the march started.
The event comes a few months after a handful of reported incidents of assault against females on or around campus during the first few weeks of school. According to SHARPP’s website, one out of five women will be sexually assaulted while on a college campus, while the statistic for men is one in 10.
The event is not exclusive to the UNH campus itself. The Take Back the Night Foundation is a charitable organization that was started in the late 1960s in Europe and now has a worldwide reach. Its message is identical to that of Thursday’s event. According to its website, its goal is to “create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives.”