On Oct. 14, Thompson Hall lawn was illuminated with glowsticks and candles as University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) held their annual Take Back The Night event.
One in four women and one in ten men experience sexual harassment or violence. Take Back The Night is designated to supporting victims, learning about SHARPP’s services and raising awareness by listening to and sharing stories. The event started with a powerful speech by Ally Poulin, the program’s outreach assistant, in which she provided an overview of SHARPP and why this event is so important.
“I am trying to accomplish making our campus a safer place,” Poulin said. “Nobody should ever be assaulted or have to worry about being assaulted on a night out.”
The event was sponsored by multiple student organizations, including Alliance, UNH’s primary LGBTQ+ student group. Poulin detailed that 35% of the LGBTQ+ community also experience sexual violence in their lives. “People don’t realize this is an issue in all communities,” Jillian Seale, senior social work major and chair of Alliance, explained. “We want to speak up for and with the LGBTQ community and give them a voice.”
Poulin instructed attendees to crack their glowsticks if they or a person they knew had been affected by sexual assault, or if they were here to support survivors. Quickly, everyone’s glowsticks were lit up and held in the air. After, the attendees walked through campus with glowsticks radiating to represent SHARPP and to display their support for victims.
Other student groups also vocalized the significance of coming to Take Back The Night. “We believe this is an important event that everyone should attend and support,” said Lambda Chi Alpha member Myles Collins. “We want to show our solidarity for the UNH community.”
Attendees were also given candles to light and display support as survivors shared their stories. Kate Stariknok, junior communication sciences and disorders major and SHARPP advocate, hopes people learned from this event and understand the need for this night but also continue to offer ongoing support every day.
Poulin was surprised but also inspired to see how many people shared their stories. Cora Salzano, junior environmental conservation and sustainability major, explained how hearing from others opened her mind to just how many people at UNH are influenced by sexual abuse and violence. “I knew about the issue of sexual assault on college campuses,” said Salzano. “But it was different and powerful to hear stories about people at UNH that have been affected.”
“I think it was an awesome event,” said Poulin. “We had a massive amount of people. It’s really empowering to see how an event can bring so many individuals together.”
Photos courtesy of TNH Staff Ben Domaingue.