Content warning: sexual assault
The 44th annual Take Back The Night Ann Arbor rally and march took place in both the Michigan Union ballroom and the streets of Ann Arbor Thursday evening.
Take Back The Night is a collaboration between the Ann Arbor-based organization Standing Tough Against Rape Society and the student organization United Students Against Rape (USAR). The rally featured multiple local officials as well as survivors of sexual assault who spoke about their personal experiences.
The rally was led by activist Nicole Denson and USAR’s student volunteers. It also featured student organizations, such as the Wolverine Support Network, Roe v. Rape and WORTH, as well as campus and local organizations, such as DPSS: Special Victims Unit, Planned Parenthood of Michigan and the Safehouse Center.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., shared her own experiences with gender-based violence and recounted instances of gun violence in her childhood home. She also explained a time when a former coworker had persistently stalked her.
“Too many women experience this,” Dingell said. “If you say something at work or you say you’ve seen it, the Me Too movement is taking it back for women.We are standing up for each other, having each person’s back, believing people. You need to believe people when they come to you.”
Dingell also said she is proud about the reinstatement of the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law two weeks ago by U.S. President Joe Biden after four years of rejection from the U.S. Senate. She also noted the significance of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation Thursday afternoon as a step forward for womens’ voices in the government.
Music producer and activist Drew Dixon, known for her feature in the HBO documentary On The Record, also attended the Thursday evening event. In 2017, Dixon came out to The New York Times as a rape victim of music executive Russell Simmons. She said healing is possible if one acknowledges they can simultaneously be a victim and survivor of sexual violence.
“I would encourage you to invite the victim in, invite the pain in, so you can process it,” Dixon said. “Let the movie play; my movie played. The sky didn’t fall. I’m still here. Open the box, find the victim, process the pain and I believe you will also find your treasure.”
Former Michigan football player, sexual abuse survivor and activist Jon Vaughn also attended the event and expressed gratitude for Dixon and her choice to share her experiences.
“I love hearing Drew talk,” Vaughn said. “As a woman of Color coming out (about her experiences), I had to look to her. Finding my voice from the strength of women (like her) was amazing. We’re here as much for them as they have been for us.”
While playing football for the University of Michigan, Vaughn was sexually abused by the late Dr. Robert Anderson, an athletic physician with over 2,000 allegations against him. Vaughn camped outside of former President Mark Schlissel’s house for 150 days starting in October to protest the administration’s mishandling of allegations against Anderson before his campsite was removed. He is also in the midst of campaigning for a spot on the University’s Board of Regents.
The rally then began marching from the Union, going down towards S. Main Street. Chants like “We have the power, we have the right, the streets are ours! Take back the night!” rang across the streets as the rally moved around downtown. The protestors then concluded the march at the Diag with a vigil to honor those lost due to sexual violence.
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor also spoke at the event and expressed his support for the fight against sexual assault and access to resources for survivors. Taylor concluded with a city-wide proclamation naming April 2022 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“With deep gratitude, I, Christopher Taylor, Mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan, do hereby proclaim April 2022 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” Taylor said. “In joining advocates and communities across the country to prevent sexual violence and to uplift survivors of this crime, together we can — and we will — build safer and more supportive spaces now and in the future.”
LSA sophomore Emily Madlambayan attended the event and said she appreciated the speakers who chose to tell their stories.
“I’m really proud of everyone who decided to share their stories, and very proud of everyone who decided to wake up and keep going,” Madlambayan said. “This (event) seems like a great start and a great way to be visible about important issues.”
Daily Staff Reporter Emily Blumberg can be reached at email@example.com.