Nearly 35 people fared the rain Thursday for the UW-Madison Campus Womens’ Center’s “Take Back the Night,” where participants discussed personal experiences with sexual assault and the misconceptions surrounding it.
The event was founded in Philadelphia in 1975 to help raise public awareness about sexual assault and ways it can be stopped. It has steadily spread to countries all over the world such as Australia, India, Canada and most of Europe.
“Take Back the Night” has been at UW-Madison since 1989.
This year’s event largely focused on sexual assault survivors and their continued struggle to end the violence. According to Julia Gutierrez, the Take Back the Night planning committee chair, 1 out of 6 American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
As the sun set, participants formed a circle and some of the women came forward to share their own, relatives or friends’ experiences at a candlelight vigil and speak-out held atop Bascom Hill. As the vigil progressed, the circle grew larger and more people joined.
“I want to remind us all that we are here doing ‘Take Back the Night’ to honor survivors, to give a space for survivors to speak out,” Violence Prevention Communications Coordinator Stephen Montagna said. “We have this movement because of survivors.”
Keynote speaker Molly Herrmann also discussed the perils of sexual assault within the LGBT community and the myths surrounding it. According to Herrmann, the violence takes place more often than people realize, because many within that community fear speaking out will cause additional harm.
“Sexual assault often involves shame and fear for survivors,” she said. “This is no different for LGBT people. LGBT are unlikely to tell mainstream providers for fear about how disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity will be handled.”
While the event focused on victims of sexual assault all around the world, UW-Madison junior Sarah Lensmire said it happens on campus more often than most students realize.
“[Sexual assault] does happen. And it happens to your friends and it happens to your sisters and that there are things that we can do,” Lensmier said. “There are steps you can take and there are ways to help.”