The Sexual Harassment & Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) staged the annual Take Back the Night vigil and march on Thursday, Oct. 10. Between 250 and 300 members of the UNH community attended the event. 

Students and other community members congregated first at the flagpole in front of Thompson Hall, encouraged to share their experiences and comments in a safe and supportive environment. Lighted candles and light sticks added to the solemn and meaningful mood of the vigil and subsequent march around campus. 

Shouts of “two-four-six-eight-no more violence, no more hate!” could be heard from the participants as they made their way in and around campus on this early autumn night. 

Senior journalism and international affairs major Jordyn Haime coordinates and runs the event along with junior art education major Ally Poulin. 

Haime spoke to the power of the event.     

“I’ve been with SHARPP for almost four years now, as a community educator, peer advocate, and more recently as the communications and marketing assistant,” Haime said. “It is a work-study position; I do blog posts and social media.”  

“For a lot of people, Take Back the Night is a very empowering and healing experience,” she said. “For some people, it’s the first time they’ve shared the story of what happened to them out loud. Many show up to be allies, and others are there to feel the support offered to them by this community, even if they’ve never told anyone about their experience before. We get support from a lot of different and diverse student organizations. It’s all about building our community and encouraging people to do more to support survivors than just attending this event once a year.”  

“I’ll say the event has grown over the last five years, as SHARPP has had a more active hand in supporting the event and partnerships with Fraternity and Sorority Life have grown,” SHARPP Prevention Specialist Zachary Ahmad-Kahloon told The New Hampshire. “Take Back the Night is so much about building a community that supports one another and recognizes that everyone should feel safe where they live, work, and study. This event allows survivors to take the microphone and share their story in their own way and do so surrounded by people that are there to believe and support them.” 

“Take Back the Night is an international display of solidarity and support for survivors,” he said. “But it can’t just be once a year we come to take a photo and show support and then go back into our communities and perpetuate bad behaviors. This has to be a constant and concerted effort that we all take as individuals, a community, and an institution.” 

Ahmad-Kahloon also spoke to the gravity and seriousness of the SHARPP program. 

“Nationally issues regarding Title IX are always a concern to us,” he said. “Any day now we are due new regulations regarding how campuses investigate and respond to survivors reporting their assault, and SHARPP is at the center of that work making sure survivors are being heard.” 

Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. The law protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX reads that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

The 24/7 confidential SHARPP help line is (603) 862-7233.