On Wednesday, March 30, the Blacksburg campus and community will come together to take a stand against gender-based violence. The annual Take Back the Night rally and march is expected to draw about 500 participants.
“The personal stories of Virginia Tech students illustrate that this problem is right here in our community,” said Claire Kelling of Morrow, Ohio, lead coordinator for Take Back the Night. “I got involved in Take Back the Night four years ago because this event allows us to have conversations about gender-based violence. It helps to educate our community on the issue and resources available locally. It also allows our community to show support for survivors.”
A senior pursuing a dual degree in statistics and economics in the College of Science with minors in women’s and gender studies and women’s leadership, Kelling said, “We are surrounded by a culture that perpetuates violence through attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Gender-based violence affects everyone. There are many who do not know much about gender-based violence, and this gives them a place to learn.”
Take Back the Night is an international event with the mission of ending sexual, relationship, and domestic violence. Hundreds of events are held in more than 30 countries each year. Take Back the Night began at Virginia Tech in 1990 as an initiative of the Women’s Undergraduate Network. Now called Womanspace+, the group has held the march and rally each year since. Susan Anderson, senior instructor in mathematics and faculty advisor to Womanspace+, credits the students who organize the event for its ongoing success.
“Take Back the Night is a grassroots action,” Anderson said. “It needs to be organized by students to keep it fresh and to keep it relevant to students. Also, organizing a Take Back the Night is a tremendous effort. Students gain invaluable logistical skills, networking skills, and other leadership skills through their work on Take Back the Night.”
Take Back the Night includes a rally followed by a march through campus and downtown Blacksburg. The “Actions for Change” portion of the program at the end encourages participants to take simple steps in their daily lives to reduce gender-based violence in the local community. “I think many people want to make change, but they don't know how,” said Kelling. “This gives them the tools to go forward and intentionally make change.”
“I have been to numerous Take Back the Night events on other Virginia campuses, and those events did not have an ‘Actions for Change’ component to the program,” said Anderson. “Participants left better educated on the issues, which is great but not necessarily empowered to enact change or to know how to work on this issue. I believe our Take Back the Night not only raises awareness, but empowers participants to become involved in lessening violence locally.”
The 27th annual Take Back the Night will take place on Henderson Lawn on College Avenue, across from the Lyric Theatre. Pre-rally music starts at 6:30 p.m. with the rally beginning at 7 p.m. Rain location is the auditorium in the Graduate Life Center. Take Back the Night is open to anyone at Virginia Tech and the surrounding community.
“Throughout the years, I have seen so many people come out of their residence halls or out of bars and restaurants to ask questions or even to join us,” said Kelling. “I hope participants will learn about resources available in the community. I hope participants will learn how gender-based violence affects so many people around us and in different ways. I hope participants will learn about the intersectional aspects of gender-based violence. And I hope they learn ways to individually and collectively make positive change on this issue. I strongly believe that together, we can Take Back the Night.”
Written by Sandy Broughton.