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Participants light candles for a vigil.[Mary Gaston/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

The night was chilly, but the atmosphere warm as members of the Penn community gathered yesterday on College Green for the 15th annual Take Back the Night.

"Our goal is to bring rape to the forefront of discussion in order to empower women against rape and sexual violence," said College sophomore Jay Solomon, one of the event's organizers.

Take Back the Night is an international event that began in Belgium in 1976. On Penn's campus, this was the first year it was entirely student-planned and student-run.

Approximately 60 people, of whom about one-third were male, gathered last night to listen to others' experiences and to share their own. Participants marched on Locust Walk from College Green to Spruce Street and back down the center of campus. They then held a candlelight vigil at which victims of sexual violence could share their experiences.

"We must speak out against all those who would silence us," said Rev. Beverly Dale, executive director of the Christian Association.

Events like this are "really important to have," College senior Katherine Lee said. People who have experienced sexual violence "should be able to have this safe environment."

Organizers noted an increase in attendance in general this year, and by men in particular.

College sophomore Greg Berger said he came last night "to respect what has happened" to victims of sexual violence. "I feel very much included in the dialogue ... . It's a good opportunity for men to show support for women instead of making them victims."

College of General Studies student Cary Miller agreed with the need to increase dialogue. "I have so much privilege in this culture as a man ... . I don't have to worry about walking down the street alone. I don't think it's right that women have to."

Take Back the Night was one of a series of events this week to raise awareness about sexual violence and its prevalence.

The movie Rape Is was shown on Monday, followed by a facilitated discussion. Last night, the organizers of Take Back the Night hosted a panel discussion called "Rape: An International Epidemic." T-shirts, designed by all the sororities as well as others in the Penn community, have hung on Locust Walk since Monday.

In her introductory remarks, College sophomore Niva Kramek quoted one T-shirt that read, "Everyone knows a survivor, even if we don't know we do."

In order to break the silence and reduce the stigma surrounding sexual violence, "it's important to have this on the Green, to have it in public," she added.

Any opportunity for people to "promote equality and protect the rights of individuals" is beneficial to the community, Engineering senior Natasha Sardesai said.

"Violence against individuals for any reason, and especially for" characteristics that are innate to them, is an injustice, she added.

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