Hundreds of students and faculty marched down Locust Walk on March 21 for Take Back The Night, an annual event against all forms of sexual violence.

Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention at Penn hosted its annual Take Back the Night event in support of survivors of sexual harassment, violence, and abuse on March 21. 

Hundreds of students and faculty gathered in the Bodek Lounge of Houston Hall at 5 p.m. in the newest rendition of a tradition that began 30 years ago in 1994. The evening began with a rally featuring remarks from students and administrators and continued with a march across campus, a candlelight vigil, and stories from survivors of sexual abuse.

Credit: Ethan Young The Take Back The Night resource fair featured organizations from Penn and the city of Philadelphia.

Take Back the Night is an international campaign dedicated to ending sexual and interpersonal violence. The movement began in response to violence against women in major metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia. 

This year was the first time Penn’s Take Back the Night event included a resource fair. The change was implemented after a recent University survey found that 78% of Penn students do not know how to find help in the event of experiencing sexual abuse. The fair aimed to spread awareness of the support lines available to students on campus and featured tables hosted by Penn Violence Prevention, Penn Women’s Center, and other event co-sponsors.

Credit: Ethan Young

The rally began with a speech by College sophomore and ASAP President Helena Saven recognizing the need for change, citing that over one third of undergraduate women at Penn experience sexual abuse or assault during their time on campus. 

“Shatter the silence, stop the violence,” she repeated during the speech.

Interim Penn President Larry Jameson then spoke about the importance of educating people of their rights. He said the highest priority of the event was spreading awareness to prevent incidents of sexual abuse before they happen. 

Credit: Ethan Young

President Larry Jameson spoke about the important of student advocacy and sexual assault prevention services.

The rally also featured a speech by Jessica Mertz, the inaugural director of PVP and current executive director of the Clery Center — a national organization that advocates for campus safety regulations. Mertz, who received a certificate in nonprofit administration from Penn in 2014, reflected on her decade spent at Penn and the enduring impact that events such as Take Back the Night have on campus.

“You may only be here for a few years, but your legacy is not,” Mertz said. “The work that you do here, the way you raise your voices for each other and for this community, you will bring that beyond these walls.” 

Event coordinator and College sophomore Saara Ghani then encouraged the audience to find solace in their peers. 

“Tonight, let's feel,” she said. “Let's take comfort in the number of people that are here. Let's let ourselves be not alone.”

After the remarks, Ghani and Saven led hundreds of students on a march on Locust Walk headed by Penn Band. Participants walked with signs and repeated chants condemning interpersonal violence, emphasizing the simplicity of consent and showing support for victims.

College sophomore Anna Bellows, a University Council member speaking on behalf of ASAP, explained the gravity of the importance of coordination between administration and students when it comes to confronting issues of sexual violence. 

“Rape culture is everyone's issue,” Bellows said, adding that Take Back the Night is a space where survivors, allies, and people who simply want to learn more can come together in support of one another. 

“This purpose is one that will be unwavering until we achieve our goal, which is to end sexual violence on college campuses,” Saven said. “We're going to have Take Back the Night this year and every year until that happens.”

Credit: Jean Park After the march, attendees lit candles to honor survivors of sexual violence.