Students advocate for a safer campus community during ‘Take Back the Night’

Attendees of ‘Take Back the Night’ gather in the MLK Commons prior to the march to listen to several speakers share their story.

By Sophia Mullowney

DeKALB —  Female and male students alike gathered to show support for a safer campus culture at a “Take Back the Night” rally hosted by Women and Gender Advocacy Alliance [WGAA].

“Take Back the Night” is an ongoing international series of rallies and marches intended to support victims of sexual assault.

The rally began 7 p.m. in the MLK Commons and featured testimonies from speakers. Representatives from WGAA, as well as featured speaker Karli Johnson, spoke about their own experiences with sexual assault and voiced support for victims. Attendees marched from Lucinda Avenue to Annie Glidden Drive then Stadium Drive and eventually ended at the East Lagoon for a bonfire and reception.

WGAA provided materials for attendees to make signs, though some attendees arrived with their own. Many signs held messages of support, while some condemned current public officials for perceived inaction concerning sexual violence towards women. One sign bore the message “F Brett Kavanaugh.”

Amy Juarez, WGAA President and senior corporate communication major, said amplifying victims’ accounts of sexual assault is one of the more important functions of “Take Back the Night.”

“You meet such inspirational women who have impactful stories and are so welcoming and awesome,” Juarez said. “It’s a really cool place to feel completely comfortable and say how you feel.”

Kourtney Kurps, WGAA representative and senior communication major, said the continuing occurrence of sexual assault on college campuses merits events like Take Back the Night.

“The sad reality is 1 to 4 women experience assault by the time they’re 25,” Kurps said. “It’s so prevalent every day, and every weekend when you go out and you’re trying to decide what to wear, but you can’t wear what you want because you’re scared of what will happen. It gives people a chance to talk; it gets the conversation going.”

Kate Cady, WGAA’s faculty advisor and assistant professor with NIU’s Department of Communication, said the program has been conducting rallies since the late 1990s.

Featured speaker and NIU alumni Karli Johnson former president of the Women’s Rights Alliance, national speaker and leader of the “Asking for It” project, centered her address around educating children on consent.

“Do you know how we’re going to stop this violence?” Johnson asked. “It’s children. Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

Students present at “Take Back the Night” cited ongoing issues regarding campus sexual assault as their motivation to take part in the rally.

Junior psychology major Jess Tekielak and junior sociology major Sarah Connolly said they attended the rally in support of the student physically and sexually assaulted in the Jack Arends Art Building during the end of the spring semester of 2018.

Other students said they felt encouraged to attend “Take Back the Night” to support survivors and make a stand for women’s rights on campus.

“It’s an important issue and I want to understand and get involved, because I haven’t taken any action in events similar to this,” Nick Stone, first year finance major, said.