The Second annual Take Back the Night march was a huge success. Over 100 men and women participated. Free t-shirts were available to the first 100 people. The group met at the Quads and marched behind a big Take Back the Night banner. The group was animated and talking about the sexual assault experiences of friends and family on the walk over to the Towers and then on to the University Center. People in cars stopped to ask what the march was about and there was excitement in the air.
Dr. Gail Gillan of the Wellness Center emceed the event. Two sexual assault survivors told their stories and both were courageous stories of women getting out of painful relationships and moving from victims to survivors. The crowd was clearly moved by their stories and applause was sustained afterwards. Although their stories spoke of their painful assaults and feeling powerless, they changed to stories of inspiring recovery and empowerment as they reclaimed their lives. A poem written by a rape survivor was read.
The microphone was opened up for whoever wanted to speak. A young man came forward and talked about his sexual assault as child by an older child. His story was a good reminder that not all survivors are women. He demonstrated real courage by speaking out. He, too, was warmly received by the crowd.
The program moved on with speakers from service providers from both on and off campus letting the crowd know about services offered. They included:
Leticia Manzano of the Houston Area Women’s Center ( Houston Area Women’s Center)
Sgt. Dina Gonzales of the UH Department of Public Safety
Laura Moore, RNChief Nurse of the UH Health Clinic
Dr. Kimberly James of the Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) and her team of psychologist there to conduct outreach or crisis counseling if necessary
Heather Cox, UH Student and Victim advocate for Katy Christian Ministries.
The evening ended with a lovely vocal performance by UH student Katherine Young, a mezzo soprano at the Moores School of Music. She selected the song, “The Prayer” by David Foster and Carole Bayer, which included these words:
Let this be our prayer
As we go our way,
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your Grace
To a place where we’ll be safe
Her beautiful voice rose up from the floor of the Arbor to the skies above. Candles were lit at students walked up the stairs. The night had fallen and the candles showed the way upward. It was a compelling moment as men and women walked together in safety and solidarity.
Take Back the Night Marches occur on campuses across the nation since April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The march gives campus communities an opportunity to raise consciousness about sexual assault and educate students, faculty, and staff about campus resources that address the issue. At times women are afraid to walk across campuses at night to go to the library or meet a friend. This march takes back the night for women by walking together in numbers for safety. Men are welcome to join us. Although a commonly cited statistics notes that 1 in 4 college women have experienced a sexual assault, men can be sexually assaulted, too. A statewide study on sexual assault conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that 1 in 5 adult women in Texas have experienced sexual assault and 1 in 20 men.
The evening would not have been possible without the assistance of many people and groups. The Cougar Peer Educators were instrumental in organizing the event and working on student turn out. Janelle Cambron was part of the organizing effort and had the banner made. Sororities were involved and some classes came including the Women's Issues class from the Graduate College of Social Work. Three students from the UH Clear Lake campus Women's Studies program also attended.