Chanting “claim our bodies, claim our rights, take a stand, take back the night,” students marched towards Abbot Campus to protest sexual harassment and assault and gender-based violence on Wednesday night. The march, which began at the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall, was part of the fourth annual Take Back the Night event at Andover.
Take Back the Night is a global organization that hosts events and initiatives to eradicate sexual violence and harassment, according to Hanna Nazzaro ’20, a member of the Brace Board and an organizer of Take Back the Night at Andover.
“[Take Back the Night’s] goal is to end sexual harassment and violence, which is a really lofty goal. They try to accomplish that organizing smaller events to mobilize people so they support and raise awareness of sexual assault and harassment and violence. Our Take Back the Night is just a small part of that,” said Nazzaro.
Emma Slibeck ’20, Brace Board member and another organizer of the event, expressed the importance of supporting survivors of sexual harassment assault and gender-based violence in the Andover community.
“Andover is not exempt from sexual harassment and assault and gender-based violence. It happens here, we know from the State of the Academy and also from your experience, and we’re a part of the world where gender-based violence and sexual assault and harassment are realities. I think it’s really important that we do support and uplift survivors and honor their voices, and be there for those who do not have a voice yet. And, turn the narrative back on the perpetrator, reject victim blaming, reject shaming,” said Slibeck.
Take Back the Night helps facilitate difficult conversations among the Andover community, according to Sawyer Moody ’19, the third organizer of the event.
“I think after Take Back the Night, we really just want students to be more comfortable with these conversations and be open to these stories, because they can be suppressed by different factors. We want to open the doors to those voices,” said Moody.
According to Slibeck, although Andover engages in conversations about sexual assault and harassment in spaces such as the Brace Board and Women’s Forum, an intersectional perspective of the topic is lacking on a campus-wide scale.
“We talk about consent, largely from the work that the Brace Center is doing, we talk about violence, but often, in terms that are very limited. I really hope that [Take Back the Night] opens up the conversation and people’s understandings of what gender-based violence is,” said Slibeck.
Take Back the Night is primarily to reflect and honor survivors, according to Moody, but it also encourages others to educate themselves about gender-based violence.
“We also want [Take Back the Night] to be a night for bringing others who aren’t necessarily aware of these issues out to an event that they can learn or take something away that maybe they hadn’t necessarily understood before. Personally, I went to Take Back the Night for the first time last year, and a lot of the quotes that they said really impacted me. I wasn’t expecting that. But I left, and here I am trying to organize the next one,” said Moody.
During the event, participants held candles in silence and listened to faculty and peers perform and read original work. According to Nazzaro, their participation and support helps to represent the Andover community on a larger scale, allowing Take Back the Night to be a community effort, more so than a Brace Board effort.
Slibeck said, “We have a lot of student involvement this year. We’ve had that in the past but there are so many more people coming forward with their own testimonies, their own stories and wanting to get involved in this cause and wanting to take it after Take Back the Night. People come to the march and take part in the debrief after but people are really interested in what are the next steps and where we can go from here.”
Cameron Kang ’21, a future Brace Board member, and Celeste Robinson ’22, a participant of the event, believed the final congregation of various Andover students on the Abbot Campus to be especially impactful.
Kang said, “I was especially moved by the event when we stood in a circle in front of the Brace center and I saw people I didn’t necessarily consider my friends around me. I knew all my girl friends were there, but it was touching to see boys I didn’t expect to see next to me.”
“I know that it’s sparked a lot of conversations, before and after, about how our lives have come into contact with these situations, and it really helped bring awareness and also sensitivity towards the subject,” added Robinson.