Groups from Cornell University, Ithaca College and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center converged on the Commons Friday to take part in Take Back the Night, an annual women’s rights rally. The rally is held to increase awareness and support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Cornell students held up signs and chanted as they marched in the rain from Ho Plaza to the Commons. Adriane Bracciale ’07, president of Students Acting for Gender Equality (SAGE), led the march from Cornell with a megaphone and numerous chants.
Bracciale said that Take Back the Night “raises awareness. A lot of people don’t even know how big a problem rape and sexual assault are. That stems from a basic misunderstanding that it has anything to do with sex or attraction or passion. It’s just a violent crime and should be treated as such.”
“It’s really important to show survivors that there is a place where they can come and talk about the experiences that they’ve had and show people that we won’t stay silent,” said Kimberly Rice ’06, who helped organize the event for the Women’s Resource Center.
She emphasized the importance of speaking out against sexual assault and rape.
“They occur behind closed doors between just two people … and it’s the type of thing that doesn’t get solved unless survivors talk about it … So often these issues are covered up in our society, sometimes the only thing you can do is scream about them to get people to notice them,” she said.
Despite the gloomy weather, about 250 people gathered on the Commons to hear speeches from survivors and advocates. Armbands were handed out at the rally; survivors of sexual or domestic violence wore purple ribbons, allies wore blue and advocates from the Advocacy Center wore orange ribbons.
“It’s a really powerful experience to see how many purple armbands there are, and it’s a really visual representation that survivors aren’t alone,” said Heather Campbell, education director for the Advocacy Center, which organized the event along with the Take Back the Night Collective.
She explained that participation should go beyond the rally.
“We ask people to make a personal commitment to ending violence in their lives and our community … Statistically most people aren’t victims or offenders; most people are bystanders and so were really asking people to take that stand … and to speak up and say this isn’t acceptable.”
One of the featured speakers was Gwen Wilkinson, Tompkins County District Attorney, who spoke of the problems women face in American society today.
“If you raise your voice, I will raise mine,” Wilkinson promised the crowd.
Joyce Bleiweiss, a sexual assault nurse at Cayuga Medical Center spoke about her work assisting women who have been victims of sexual assault and rape. She explained how important it is to make victims feel safe.
“That is my job, and that is my love,” Bleiweiss said.
Survivors also took the stage to address the crowd; some spoke of personal experiences, and others chose to focus on the importance of Take Back the Night, but all affirmed their commitments to raising awareness of violence against women.
The night also included music and the Clothesline project, a display of T-shirts made by survivors and hung on clotheslines. The shirts are meant to be help victims heal as well as show that they are not alone.
Archived article by Mariel Bronen
Sun Staff Writer