As the sun set behind the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, University students and residents of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti stayed out on the Diag Friday evening to watch and participate in the 24th annual Take Back the Night rally.
The event, sponsored by the Ann Arbor Coalition Against Rape and University Women Against Rape, began with a series of speeches from survivors of sexualized violence and members of the Washtenaw County Sexual Assault Crisis Center.
The speakers aimed to raise awareness of the severity of sexual assault through first-hand accounts and descriptions of the impact the violence has on victims.
From the steps of the Graduate Library, Diane Moore spoke to the crowd about her experience with sexual violence. “People who are sexually abused don’t really want to live,” she said.
Michelle Johnson also drew attention to the psychological impact on rape victims as she gave a detailed account of how she was raped almost a year ago.
“It takes this piece of your soul and it feels like you’ll never get it back,” she said.
Johnson’s first-hand account prompted a wave of sympathy noticeable in the faces of the attendants, Art and Design sophomore Laura Dolan said.
“I looked around and there wasn’t a dry eye,” she added.
Upon conclusion of the speeches, rally attendees proceeded to march through Central Campus streets and back to the Diag.
The Department of Public Safety estimated that between 75 and 100 people attended the event, a turnout that raised concern among some students.
LSA sophomore Rachel Robbins said she thinks too many students try to stay away from serious issues like rape for social reasons.
“I definitely don’t think enough people came,” she said. “A lot of women on campus avoid feminist issues because feminism has become such a dirty word.”
Another noticeable aspect about the crowd in attendance on Friday was that only a few men came to see and participate in the rally. LSA sophomore David Hoffman said he feels most of the campus’ male population think they do not need to show support for sexual violence prevention.
“I don’t think guys realize the severity of it,” he said. “If they think they’re not going to rape somebody, they think they don’t have to outwardly support (sexual assault prevention).”
Take Back the Night started in San Francisco in 1978 with a rally of over 5,000 people. The University started the tradition a few months after. This year’s rally was of specific importance because the Ann Arbor area’s Sexual Assault Crisis Center has recently lost its funding due to budget cuts in the Washtenaw Community Health Organization.
Along with the rally, students petitioned for returning funds to the SACC, a program that has helped respond to an average of one sexual assault every other day.