Activist and Gray Panthers Founder Maggie Kuhn once said, “Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.”
This quote was displayed on the main banner at Thursday’s 10th annual Take Back the Night event hosted by the USF student organization NITE (Network. Improve. Transform. Empower.). Shirts with messages from survivors of sexual violence hung high on clotheslines all around the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater. One in four women and one in 33 men are victims of sexual violence. Some instances are reported, but many are not. It is the survivors of such ordeals NITE wished to support and stand with.
“We do this every spring,” said Kendyl Muehlenbein, co-president of NITE. “April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, and this particular event, Take Back the Night, is actually an international event. All types of college campuses, any type of center, host this event, and we happen to as well.”
A quick look around showed the venue filling up with diverse members of the student body. In addition to students, members of the University Police, advisors, family members and even dogs from the local group Paws for Justice attended.
Beginning with a welcome and introduction by the hosts, attendees were invited to make the Relationship Equality and Anti-Violence League Promise led by Daniel-John Sewell.
“This is a commitment to help keep our community safe from violence. It is a promise to be an active bystander and to be a part of a solution,” said Kendyl as she explained the meaning of the promise. Male-identifying members of the audience and organizers were given an additional set of promises they could choose to make, all of whom did.
The Silent March that followed was a sizable procession marked by its participants carrying signs speaking up against sexual violence and in favor of survivors.
The highlight of the event was when men and women seized the stage to share their experiences, all while encouraging and inspiring each other. Advice, humor, poetry, lessons learned by these survivors, and an attentive audience formed the core of this segment.
The night concluded with a candlelight vigil to honor survivors, a musical performance by the vocal duo Karina Rios and Wilfredo Bautista and a reception.
The event worked to reflect NITE’s mission statement to raise awareness on campus.
“NITE is a social justice student organization on campus, and we put on very big sexual awareness events. Our goal is to try to make our campus a safer place and give a place for students to feel empowered to do great things,” Kendyl said.