The Take Back The Night rally, usually held every year in Ann Arbor, was broadcasted on Thursday in a 29-minute YouTube video, including clips from keynote speaker Jaclyn Friedman, an activist for sexual violence awareness.

Presented by the Standing Tough Against Rape Society and the University Students Against Rape, the video contained messages from student organizers as well as from Pam Swider, STARS executive director and founder. 

The rally began with a message from Swider addressing the different format of the event. She said she hoped the video would uplift survivors and others tuning in. 

“Things are a bit different this year,” Swider said. “And though we're not in the Michigan League ballroom like we planned, we are still here to come together to raise awareness about sexual violence, and most importantly, to uplift survivors and give them and you all watching hope during this time.”

Friedman acknowledged the fearful feelings of many in the public right now due to the current COVID-19 health crisis. She said the situation may be reminiscent of trauma to some viewers.

“This is probably rhyming with trauma, right?” Friedman said. “A lot of us feel out of control; we feel like men we don't trust have a lot of control over our lives. It’s scary; it’s really scary. Some of us are in close quarters and can’t live with people who are not safe to us. So I don’t in any way want to minimize what we’re all going through right now.”

Friedman said survivors can utilize strength gained from past events during this time of stress. 

“We are survivors, and that means we know how to survive,” Friedman said. “So I want to really encourage you to spend some time taking care of yourself, and reflecting on what got you through the things you've survived already? What are the lessons you learned from that, that you can apply now?”

The event also included informational clips recorded by members of USAR meant to inform the audience on the different forms of sexual violence, such as trafficking, indecent exposure or sexual abuse. 

LSA junior Shreya Mullapudi, USAR’s grants writer, said sexual violence disproportionately affects certain groups, such as those from minority groups.

“Sexual violence pervades specific communities at higher rates,” Mullapudi said. “People in the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, people with disabilities, Native Americans, students in Greek life and many other people who sit at an intersection of these identities have a disproportionately higher risk of experiencing sexual violence in their lives.”

Additionally, the video featured a poetry reading from a volunteer member from USAR and a performance from the Detroit Women’s Chorus.

Art & Design senior Ariel Friedlander, senior student leader of USAR, thanked the sponsors of the event including Planned Parenthood, Drifter Coffee, Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory and Literati Bookstore. Friedlander also acknowledged Swider and her husband Tom Swider for founding this event 12 years ago.

“They have been such an incredible resource when it comes to knowledge, inspiration, courage, and just overall emotional support,” Friedlander said. “They’ve allowed us to hold this event and also so many others and they are the glue that keeps Take Back The Night Ann Arbor together, and we just cannot appreciate them enough.”

Daily Staff Reporter Jenna Siteman can be reached at jsiteman@umich.edu.

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