Approximately 150 people came out carrying candles yesterday for Take Back the Night, an annual campus march to raise awareness of sexual violence.
The Bowdoin chapter of Take Back the Night was organized and sponsored by V-Day, a club devoted to raising awareness of sexual violence, Bowdoin Men Against Sexual Violence (BMASV), and Safe Space. The event, however, is observed internationally.
"We should never feel like someone else has control over us," said V-Day member Raya Gabry '10 said. "We walk in order to literally claim the night for ourselves."
V-Day co-leader Shelby Davies '10 said, "I thought it was excellent this year. We had a little less than 100 people come out last year and were thrilled with that."
V-Day co-leader Emma Verrill '10 said, "It is important to realize that it is equally as scary to walk at Bowdoin as somewhere else. Bowdoin is largely a safe place, but you have to be aware anywhere, not because it is a small town or a big city, but because it is dark and you are alone."
"It was awesome that so many people showed up," said Jay Greene '13, a member of V-Day. "I talked to a couple people I had never met before. It wasn't supposed to be somber. It was more of a social gathering."
The first Take Back the Night, also called Reclaim the Night, took place in Belgium in 1976 at the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women.
The popularity of the rallies spread rapidly, and by 1978, groups had organized for candle-lit walks in places ranging from Rome to San Francisco.
The march's popularity continues to soar as it is recognized in cities and towns, on college and university campuses, and by both women and men.
"Take Back the Night is important because it reminds us that sexual assault does in fact happen and that we can do something about it. BMASV's involvement [in the event] really stems from what our group is all about," BMASV co-leader John Scannell '10 said. "We train people to help prevent sexual violence and we think an important way to learn how to do that is to experience what it's like to walk home alone at night and how scary that can be."
BMASV co-leader Brian Fry '10 said, "The image of a huge mass of people walking with candles across campus is pretty powerful, and is another way in which such an important issue is brought to the attention of the Bowdoin bubble."
"It's more of a statement. The walk is very symbolic. We also do our best to implement change since we get such great feedback," said co-leader of V-Day Shelby Davies '10.
The event has a history of effecting change on campus. After a Take Back the Night event a few years ago, participants were asked to write responses to particular questions on sheets of paper posted on the walls of the Women's Resource Center.
A common answer to the question "Where do you feel least safe on campus?" was "The path to Brunswick Apartments."
Subsequently, lights were installed on the side of Longfellow School to help illuminate the path. Despite the notion that the issues of sexual assault primarily concern women, Take Back the Night proves that both women and men can help to effect change.
"BMASV is involved in Take Back the Night because we want to show that this is not just an issue for women and that Bowdoin men need to take a more active role in supporting a safe campus atmosphere for everyone here at Bowdoin, said Colin Hay '10, co-leader of BMASV.
"No one should have to be concerned for their safety if they have to walk alone at night," Hay said.
"Guys can effect change," added Scannell. "There was a huge male turnout this year. Over 40 guys came out, which is almost five times the usual. Even though it's a half-hour walk, it's a Thursday night. And they remembered to wear red."
"The presence of men at events like these is crucial, because it helps people realize that this isn't an issue targeted toward a certain gender or sexuality," Fry said. "If people become aware of this fact, they can do their part in reducing sexual violence on this campus, whether it be through their personal conduct or by joining one of the many groups on campus that deal with this issue."
"In the end, it's about making Bowdoin a healthier, safer place for all of us," Fry said.