Students rally, chant and empower survivors at Take Back The Night

Students rally, chant and empower survivors at Take Back The Night

The event held at Hendricks Chapel seeks to provide a safe space to educate others about sexual and relationship violence.
Published: March 31, 2023
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Mateo Roldan (right) leads the crowd in chants during Take Back the Night on Wednesday, March 29, 2023 at Hendricks Chapel.

Wednesday night, current and former Syracuse University students, accompanied with hand-written posters, gathered at Hendrick’s Chapel for the university’s annual Take Back The Night rally, which aims to give voice to survivors of sexual and relationship violence. The event opened with a word from the Rev. Brian E. Konkol, addressing the importance of the topic at hand and wishing that this rally, while a heavy subject, contributes positively.

“Goodness is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate,” Konkol said to close off his statements.

Following Konkol’s words, two speakers from Title IX at SU spoke, giving valuable resources to the attendees. At SU, incidents of sexual, relationship and interpersonal violence can be reported directly to Title IX, but there are other resources that are available for help on campus. The Barnes Center has counseling for survivors and offers 24-hour support. SU also has the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual and Relationship Violence, which aims to support survivors and spread awareness on campus.

The rally was continued by two student speakers, Rachelle Kim, a sophomore in the Maxwell school, and Alaina Brophy, a student in the College of Law. Both students shared how common sexual assault and relationship violence are on college campuses. Kim shared that part of the reason why she participates in Take Back The Night is because it is something that she has seen friends and loved ones go through many times, posing the question: “How many of our friends and family members running to us crying will it take for real change to be initiated?”

Several students who attended the event shared similar sentiments. SU student Sofiah Pacheco shared that she agreed with what Kim had to say and that a major reason for her being at the rally was to show solidarity toward friends who have been through sexual and relationship violence. Pacheco said she felt very empowered after hearing from all of the speakers, and felt motivated to break the bystander silence.

SU freshman Zari, who asked to be identified by her first name only, agreed, sharing that she walked away with a greater understanding of ways in which she could help.

“I feel like this was a very empowering event for everyone,” Zari said. “After listening to everyone speak, you can feel empowered by it, you can feel inspired by it, you can feel like there’s resources to come out and help, and you have help as well if it.”

Zari added that she believes campus needs more awareness about events and rallies such as Take Back The Night so that more survivors know that they have a safe space on campus. She said it felt incredible to be involved in the rally.

“I just want to be a part of something, a group of people, a collective, that appreciates it and wants to fight for an important cause like this,” Zari said.

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Syracuse University students hold handmade signs during Take Back The Night.

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Keynote speaker Rachel Johnson shares personal stories and counseling advice during the presentation.

The keynote speaker, Rachel Johnson, is a former student of SU for both undergraduate and graduate school. She shared that as a student, she was part of a performance group called e5m, which sought to educate others about sexual and relationship violence and advise survivors and friends of survivors how to navigate difficult situations.

Johnson said that the name e5m is an acronym for a statistic which, at the time, said that every five minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted. Johnson added that she doesn’t know, nor does she want to know what the statistic is now, saying that she would be fearful to do the research and see the number.

Johnson said that sexual and relationship violence is so prevalent on college campuses because of the lack of accountability present at many four-year institutions.

“Accountability is fragmented because every four years there’s a new cycle of students, and so although there are maybe the same institutions and people and positions every four years, they get a breather almost because the cycle of accountability never closes while students are actively still on campus.”

In order to initiate change despite the lack of accountability, Johnson said that people cannot shy away from uncomfortable conversations. Creating more accountability looks like not letting problematic jokes be made, protecting others from situations that have the potential to be harmful, and fostering relationships with survivors that allow them to feel safe and heard, instead of being dismissive, Johnson said.

Johnson also explained that for college students who are trying to be more supportive to survivors, there is no expectation that they know exactly what to do or say.

“You don’t have to have all the answers and sometimes the best thing you can do is just be with that survivor and it doesn’t mean you have to fix everything or know all the right words to say or have the answers,” she said. “Sometimes just being and supporting them through whatever highs and lows they may go through is the most impactful thing you do ”

If you or someone you know is struggling, call the Barnes Center’s 24-hour support number at 315.443.80