Hundreds of people gathered in the third floor auditorium of Sherman Hall on Thursday night to attend the 23rd annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and rally.
The theme of this year’s rally, which had to be moved inside due to weather conditions, was Speak Up, Speak Out, Speak Now.
“Take Back the Night is a marching rally against power-based interpersonal violence in our community, campus and Macomb community included,” said Katie Mey, a graduate student in College Student Personnel serving as the TBTN committee chair. The rally gave survivors and witnesses a chance to speak out against life-changing, violent acts.
Kiryn Evans, a registered nurse, spoke of her experience growing up in a home where there was love from only one parent. Evans’ mother, Kathryn Baxter Simmons, was murdered by her husband in March 2003.
“It’s not some stranger that killed her,” Evans said. “It was her husband of 25 years. I know that she would have said, ‘You know, I know he’s never going to really hurt me. I know he’s never going to kill me.’ She said that to me numerous times. Well, he did. He wasn’t drunk. He wasn’t substance abusing. He got angry, and he beat her to death.”
After suffering severe abuse as a child, along with her mom’s murder, Evans said that by the time she graduated high school, she described herself as a drug abuser and alcoholic.
“It’s sad that when you grow up in that cycle that, unfortunately, you learn that as somewhat normal, and you continue to allow people to abuse you and hurt you,” Evans said. “It took me quite a few years of therapy to realize I didn’t want to live like that. I didn’t want to be like my mom. I didn’t want to die from domestic violence.”
Putting herself in therapy is one of the best things Evans said she has ever done for herself. She added that therapy is hard, but it’s not for crazy people. It’s for people who want to get better.
“I think when people think about domestic and interpersonal violence, they think about yelling and fighting, bruises, maybe some trips to the ED (emergency doctor),” Evans said. “But, I don’t think a lot of people think that there’s going to be a fatal victim.”
Other anonymous female survivors stood in front of the crowd of strangers and took turns telling the crowd about their own experiences.
One survivor explained that she had known her rapist for seven years. They had been best friends, and for the last two years of their relationship, they had dated on and off.
“He was my high school sweetheart so he could never hurt me, right?” she said. She then recalled how the relationship became abusive, eventually reaching the point where she knew if she tried to leave him, she would die.
“He pulled out his pocket knife and said ‘I want what I want, and you don’t have a choice,’” she said as she recalled the night of her attack. She said that afterwards, “I sat in the shower for two hours trying to wash the filth I felt off of me.” Another survivor cried as she read a poem she had written about her experience. She spoke of her relationship to her rapist, whom she had been dating at the time, and his abusive nature.
“I remember how he pushed me against the wall of an apartment building the night I resisted his control,” she said. “Never again,” she said. “Never again will I let a guy control me like that. Never again will I let a guy take my friends.” “Believe me, you are not the only one. Speak up,” she said, encouraging others to not be afraid.
After the speeches, most of the attendees gathered outside of Sherman Hall, some holding candles, to join the march, despite the rainfall. Chanting, led by TBTN committee members, began to fill the air as marchers began walking down West Adams Street on the way to Chandler Park.
“Speak up! Speak out! Speak now! Stand up for your rights! Take back the night!” The chants continued one after the other. “No matter how we dress, no matter where we go, yes means yes and no means no!”
When those in the front began to pull away, Preston Lee of Sigma Chi, took up leading a chant for those close to him. “What do we want?” he called, earning a reply of “Safe streets!” “When do we want them?” Lee continued.
“Now!” the crowd replied.When the marchers made it to Chandler Park, Lee commented on the number of men who attended the rally.
“Men, we’re part of the problem,” he said. “So, us getting together and realizing the problem is halfway there of fixing it.”
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