In an effort to raise awareness of sexual assault on the UNH campus, a large group of students met on Thompson Hall (T-Hall) lawn at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2 for the annual Take Back the Night march.
Sponsored by the UNH Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP), this event aimed to get the community together to show sexual assault survivors that they aren’t alone, while also advocating for victims with a goal to create a community that recognizes the horrors of sexual assault.
“We are walking to raise awareness of these issues,” senior social work and women’s studies double major and SHARPP Outreach Assistant Jessica Lynch said. “We want to feel safe at night, so we are taking back the night.”
SHARPP also hoped to educate those who are in the dark about sexual crimes, and aimed to spread the word about sexual safety at UNH.
“No one really knows that sexual assault happens, and if they do, they don’t know the extent of it,” junior sociology major and SHARPP Community Educator Kayla Goodwin said. “At UNH, one in four women and one in 10 men will be sexually assaulted in one academic year on campus, and that’s too many.”
According to the Take Back the Night foundation website, this nation-wide movement has been around since the 1970s and began as protests against pornography and public marches against sexualized murders. The name “Take Back the Night” was first used as a memorial title in 1977 at an anti-violence rally, and has stuck ever since.
This specific march was dedicated to the survivors on the UNH campus while also promoting awareness; it was set to show people that these issues could affect anyone while creating a place of refuge for those who have been affected.
“I think it’s really important because it raises awareness and shows how many students here have strong feelings about this issue,” Lynch said. “It can affect anyone and everyone is here to stand together.”
According to Goodwin, almost 200 students showed up to the event and walked in support of ending sexualized violence and sexual assault. Among the attendees were students of all ages, races and genders, as well as a number of campus fraternity and sorority members, including students from Phi Mu Delta, Alpha Chi Omega and the co-ed community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.
This diverse crowd allowed for a variety of support systems in unorthodox parts of the UNH community, proving that sexual assault survivors are never alone.
“It’s such an important topic, especially on a college campus with the hookup culture,” junior German major and Phi Mu Delta member Michael Shea said. “It’s important to show that we are here for other people, especially as a fraternity, and kind of going out of the norms of what it means to be a part of that section of campus.”
Though the participants may have come from various backgrounds, Shea said he believed they were all there for the same reason: to end sexual violence at UNH.
The event lasted for about an hour as the walkers did a full loop around the UNH campus. Afterward, participants lit candles in honor of survivors and people were able to speak up and tell their personal stories, which lead to a harrowing, yet important moment for everyone involved.
However, Lynch said she believes that this event is only the beginning of a brighter future for UNH.
“We all have a voice preventing these issues,” Lynch said about her takeaway from the event. “Everyone together can eventually stop this issue from still occurring.”
Follow Colleen on Twitter @thrutheirvine.