Hundreds of Syracuse University students, faculty members and Syracuse residents gathered at Hendricks Chapel on Wednesday night, March 27 to raise awareness for a common cause: speaking out against sexual violence.
The rally and march across campus was part of Take Back the Night, an annual international event to raise awareness about sexual assault, domestic abuse, dating violence and how to end these issues. The Office of Health Promotion organized SU’s event, with Vera House providing free hot beverages and snacks for attendees. Dozens of campus organizations took the pledge to end sexual violence, and their banners and handprints hung around Hendricks Chapel.
After getting its start in Europe, Take Back the Night spread to the U.S. in 1973, when women protested pornography in San Francisco, and serial murders of women of color in Los Angeles, according to the Take Back the Night foundation’s website. Today, people in 30 countries and at 600 schools host events that focus on ending sexual violence for good.
Desiree Williams Harrell, a program coordinator at the Vera House, was the keynote speaker at the event. Growing up on the South Side of Syracuse, Harrell was taught to fight back when a bully chased her, but said, “When we get older we must learn there is a time and a place for fighting back.”
At Vera House she works with men who have been identified as perpetrators of violence, but says her job is the best one she’s ever held. “I love working with those men because in them I see potential for my community,” she added.
Photo: Shuran Huang
The event’s planning committee members led the crowd outside for the march, where they walked down South Crouse Avenue to Marshall Street, through Walnut Avenue and across the promenade. As they held signs and walked across campus, marchers shouted chants such as “We have the power, we have the right, the streets are ours, take back the night.”
Many shared different reasons for coming out; for some it was their first experience, while others had been attending since their freshmen year. Seth Quam, a senior and a member of the planning committee, said sexual violence was an important issue here at SU and emphasized the need for male involvement in advocating against rape culture and violence against women.
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