On April 4th, 2019, hundreds of people gathered on College Green to protest sexual assault and violence as a part of a larger global event called ‘Take Back the Night’. The mission of Take Back the Night is to end sexual assault, domestic violence and all forms of sexual violence. In support of this mission, the Penn Violence Prevention group hosts the annual event in collaboration with Drexel. Many of those who attended where survivors themselves and stood alongside their fellow students, faculty and other supporters.
The event began with a rally outside the beautiful College Hall where the keynote speaker Sonalee Rashatwar took the stand. Sonalee is a renowned sex-therapist, community organizer and is known as TheFatSexTherapist on Instagram. She spoke passionately about the need to consider survivors who are often left out in discussions of sexual assault. Often marginalized groups are taken advantage of and not given justice or recognition.
She went on to talk about how women of color specifically are more likely to be assaulted than white women. Sonalee said, “I want us to center the conversation around those who do not have marches in their names.”
Next, Sherisse Laud-Hammond the Director of Penn Women’s Center spoke. She encouraged students to “challenge people and change the culture” on college campuses everywhere. The rally and keynote speech were followed by a march around campus.
A flood of students walked through campus, chanting “Break the silence, stop the violence” and holding signs that read “no means no”. Many students gathered before the event to make their posters, including a kickoff event held by Sigma Psi Zeta in Behrakis Grand Hall at Drexel. Lead by a band, the march made its way around Penn’s campus from College Green to 40th street and back down Locust Walk.
A few members of Drexel ROTC and Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force were in attendance.
Image courtesy of Mackenzie Greiner
After the march was a survivor speak out in Bodek Lounge where students where provided with a safe space to share their stories and be supported by peers. Attendees of this part of the night were given candles to light and time to silently reflect after which they could blow out their candle when they felt ready. Anyone was free to go up and speak about their experiences or provide encouragement for others. This was followed by a short debrief in the Penn Women’s Center with food to conclude the evening.
Throughout the event, students were encouraged to be present, open minded, and engage as they felt comfortable. It proved to be a powerful and engaging protest that in the end, many students should consider attending. For more ways to get involved as a Drexel student consider joining Drexel SAVE (Drexel Student Anti Violence Educators) or attending events throughout the month of April aka. Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Events and activities are linked here.