Ohio University students and community members rallied Thursday evening to “Take Back the Night” and advocate against sexual assault.
Take Back the Night is a national organization designed to spread awareness about and put an end to sexual violence. Ohio University students have dedicated the entire week to Take Back the Night events, and implemented its 37th annual march around Athens in support of the initiative.
Dr. Stephanie Gilmore, a sexual assault activist and writer, delivered a keynote speech to kick-start the march.
Gilmore was a professor at Dickinson College but left her position after becoming a confidant for students to confess stories of sexual violence. After directly hearing these issues, she wanted to take a more active role among students that, as a professor, an academic setting wouldn’t allow.
Since then, Gilmore has been involved with feminist activism alongside university students throughout the country.
“I have met so many young people who are the foot soldiers of this movement and they are the ones leading the change that is happening across the country,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore gave an emotional account of her sexual assault and discussed the importance of student activism to put an end to this issue on college campuses.
“I think that Ohio University has one of the most comprehensive Take Back the Night Programs. I think it is a model program for colleges and universities around the world,” Gilmore said.
Forming coalitions and networking within the community is the best way to raise awareness for student activism, Gilmore said. She also emphasized the ever-growing popularity of social media and the success that can be found within media networks.
After Gilmore ended her speech, the crowd moved outside Scripps Amphitheater and circumvented the campus, marching through Court Street, Washington Street and South Green.
The advocates could be heard throughout the streets of Athens chanting phrases such as “Survivor’s unite, take back the night!” and “Stop the violence, no more silence!”
Police escorts were present throughout the march, and bystanders continuously stopped to take pictures and video footage.
This was my first time at an event like this, and it was such a moving experience. The women and men involved were so passionate, and this is an issue that needs to be exposed,” said Madeline Lofaso, a freshman studying political science at OU.
After rounding the corner near Baker University Center, a final chant of “F*** Rape Culture!” busted out among the crowd, and the march ended with an emotional group hug among participants.