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Candlelight march will return for Take Back the Night

By Katherine Tibedo
On April 18, 2012

  • A group of students march by candlelight as part of the annual Take Back the Night rally in this April 20, 2011 photo. The rally is held to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault on campus. Rochelle BaRoss

On Wednesday at 8 p.m., an expected 400 to 500 students will unite in a candlelight march around the UConn Storrs campus. The march is part of the annual Take Back the Night rally held by Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP) that operates out of the Women's center. The goal of the rally is to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.

"I hope that students take away [from it], first, a greater empathy for survivors of sexual assault and rape," said Tess Koenigsmark, an 8th-semester women' studies and political science major and co-coordinator of VAWPP, "and I hope they take away an understanding that this is a social problem. It's not just something women are concerned with."

Whitney Johnson, VAWPP co-coordinator and 8th-semester human development and family studies major said, "It's an issue that's not really discussed and people try to think that it doesn't happen on the campus."

The event begins at 7 p.m. with a rally and performers in the student union ballroom. This year, the dance group ENCORE will preform and women studies graduate student Nikki McGary is the keynote speaker.

The candlelight march will follow the rally. Janie Johnson, an 8th-semester psychology and therapeutic horse riding major, said the marchers carry candles as a way to come together as a united group.

She said, "It's a way of uniting everyone. So when people look out their windows its an illuminated, united group."

Marchers will be handing out flyers during the march with information about the messages behind Take Back the Night.

After the campus-wide march there will be a survivor speak-out where anyone can come forward and share their story. Both Koenigsmark and Johnson both said the speak-out is the most powerful part of the evening.

Koenigsmark said, "It takes a lot of courage for survivors to get up there, but I know a lot of them find it a very empowering experience."

Johnson encouraged students new to the rally to come with an open mind. Pointing to the speak-out she said, "It takes a lot from people to come up and people should respect that and learn from it."

She continued to say that the first three hours are really good. For students who have not come to the rally before the first hour will contain much explanation about the VAWPP program and the Women's Center.

Koenigsmark suggested Students who are interested in getting more involved with VAWPP or the Women's Center take the one credit VAWPP class as a way to learn more about the issue of sexual and domestic violence. She also encouraged students to attend other events held through the Women's Center.

The event will conclude with a coffee house in the Women's Center where students can relax and process the evening.

Take Back the Night is an international organization and rallies like this one are help on college campuses all over the nation. VAWPP is not directly connected to the greater Take Back the Night organization.  

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