A little more than 20 Miami University students walked from Armstrong Student Center to uptown Oxford and back again in support of sexual assault victims during the Take Back the Night march on Monday, April 18.
The event, put on by Feminists Working on Revolutionary Democracy (F-WORD), has a long history at both Miami and other campuses across the country.
Take Back the Night first happened at Miami in 1980, and became a yearly tradition after being taken over by F-WORD in 1984.
“Take Back the Night calls attention to the danger and fear that women, femme and LGBTQ+ people face when walking alone at night,” a statement from F-WORD read. “It challenges the notion that the only way to stay safe is to stay inside.”
Harper Sutton, president of F-WORD, hopes the event can communicate their message to the Miami community.
“It aims to bring awareness to the issue and facilitate a campus community that genuinely cares and that’s visible to the greater Miami population,” Sutton said.
Sutton, who has been president of F-WORD for two years, describes herself as an activist and someone who wants to be around people interested in creating change at Miami.
“I really wanted to be in a space that facilitated that, so I could be around other people in that same world, and I think F-WORD’s a really good space for that,” Sutton said. “We don’t have a specific political affiliation, we just care about specific issues, and so it’s really cool to be able to unite with people on that.”
People began gathering at 6:45 p.m. on the Joslin Terrace outside Armstrong. Attendance was smaller than last year, with cold and rainy weather that popped up during the second half of the day.
A diverse group of students showed up, each with their own motivations for coming.
Evan Gates, member of F-WORD and former co-president, spoke positively on previous iterations of the event.
“This event was fantastic last year, I was glad I got to be a part of it,” Gates said. “It was really empowering as a survivor … especially last year when there wasn’t much in-person programming, this event really stuck out and it gave people a better sense of community, and I really want that again.”
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Billy, another student who asked to be referred to in first name only, said he attended mostly as an observer.
“I’m a social work major, so I’m really about helping any population of people, whether it be men, women or anyone,” Billy said. “I just like to go to a lot of meetings like this because it allows me to educate myself and learn more about issues from a different perspective.”
Some came with signs bearing messages of awareness for sexual assult victims, while others picked up signs provided by F-WORD. The signs featured a variety of slogans, including “Yes means yes, no means no,” “Patriarchy is rape culture” and “Take back our lives.”
Various noisemakers, including clappers and bells, and a list of chants to repeat during the march were also handed out.
The night started a little after 7 p.m., as Sutton introduced F-WORD and laid out the plan for the event. Shortly after, the march began.
Following behind Sutton, who led the chants through a bullhorn, the group began moving down East Spring Street. Some community members observed from their cars, and others took pictures from across the street.
“1-2-3-4, we won’t take it anymore! 5-6-7-8, no more violence, no more hate!” the attendees chanted. “Join together, free our lives! We will not be victimized!”
After switching to South Campus Avenue and nearing Uptown, the weather became more adversarial, as sleet and rain mixed together. But the marchers continued undeterred, as they came prepared with umbrellas and raincoats.
They raised the intensity of the chants as they entered East High Street, even as the writing on the signs began to run.
The first phase of the march concluded at Uptown Park, with people gathering under the protection of the stage to hear statistics about sexual assault and personal experiences from members of the group.
Finally, the march headed back to campus through mostly clear but still chilly weather.
Taking South Main Street to get back to East Spring Street, there were a few interactions with people on the way, some who inquired about the nature of the march and one group who shouted jeers and insults at the attendees, who responded similarly. According to one of the organizers, this group troubled them at last year’s march as well.
After reaching Armstrong, there were final words from Sutton and the other organizers, and the group went their separate ways.
Becca Dun-Roseman, treasurer for F-WORD, spoke on the importance of this event for Miami in particular.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories about sexual assaults and sexual harrasment happening here, and I think it’s just really important that everyone knows that there are people here to support them,” Dun-Roseman said.
The Take Back the Night march was part of a week-long series of events put on by F-WORD to raise awareness for their group and for support of sexual assault victims. Others included Feminist Trivia on Tuesday, April 19, and a showing of the film “Promising Young Woman” on Wednesday, April 20.
“We hope that this week of events will help support survivors so that they know they are heard,” Dun-Roseman said, “And they know that we’re here if they want to talk and that they’re aware of the campus resources available to them.”