On Wednesday, University of Florida students and Gainesville residents united for Take Back the Night, a march and rally to end sexual violence. Over 350 people attended the event that night on Norman Field.
Take Back the Night, which is a 35-year-old national event, is run by local organizations to educate the community on how to prevent and respond to sexual violence.
This year’s event was a collaboration among 11 organizations from both UF and Alachua County, including GatorWell’s Sexual Trauma Interpersonal Violence Education program, UF’s Pride Awareness Month and Alachua County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center.
Over 20 community organizations showed up and offered information on sexual awareness, domestic abuse, emotional and mental health, suicide counseling, personal defense and more. Those in attendance included the Gainesville Police Department, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Drivers Ed For Love. In addition, UF Health provided information about STD testing and other safe sex practices.
Attendees were invited to visit the information tables before heading on a march that took the crowd under the Norman tunnel, down Museum Drive and Gale Lemerand Drive before returning to Norman Field.
Although it was a rally for education on sexual violence, the event also allowed victims and survivors of abuse to speak to the crowd about their experiences. For many, it was the first time they were given the chance to stand up and share their stories.
After speaking to the audience, the survivors were invited to light a candle to remember those who have been affected by sexual violence, and some attendees lit candles after the event ended. The candles were meant to signify the light shed on sexual violence that night.
“(The candles) can be interpreted differently, but to me, it stands as a symbol that (victims) are not alone,” said Jeremiah Corley, a 20-year-old journalism major and the Sexual Assault Awareness Event Director for Pride Awareness Month. “Their past experiences do not define who they are.”