"People unite! Take back the night! Shatter the silence, stop the violence," chanted about two dozen students gathered, yet socially distanced, in Ordean Court at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The students capped off a week of campus activities designed to highlight the importance of consent in relationships with a "Take Back the Night" candlelight vigil. Unfortunately due to strong winds and a few flakes of snow, the candles were not lit, but students pressed on with the program in the cold.
"You can be a catalyst for change in your community and your life," said event organizer and UMD student Azrin Awal. "Take these candles home with you and light them on behalf of those survivors who are still afraid to speak up about their experiences. Take a stand for those survivors every day."
Take Back the Night is a movement which works to create safe communities and build respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives. The goal of the organization, according to its website, is to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence. It started in the late 1960's when women started gathering together in Belgium and England to protest not feeling safe to walk down the street alone at night.
Normally the evening culminates in a march around campus, but due to both COVID-19 restrictions and the weather, the evening instead ended with chalk art, T-shirt decoration and a chance for survivors to share their stories and messages.
For Awal, an intern with the Women's Resources and Action Center, the night is important to her personally as a survivor.
"Even though we didn't get to do what we usually do, it's still important to gather here together and give this space to hear individuals and to show them that they're not alone," Awal said. "It's important to give a voice to people who might not feel like they have one of their own right now. As a survivor myself, I wasn't able to talk about my experiences until recently, so I know how that can feel."
The program also partnered with the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA). Advocates were on hand for students to speak with.