Take Back the Night

April 23, 2013

Take Back the Night rally gives a sense of community to survivors of sexual assault.

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As a victim of sexual assault, there are days I feel like I am walking alone through a battlefield.

On April 11, though, thanks to the efforts of the Center for Gender Equity, the National Residence Hall Honorary and Pacific University, I wasn’t walking alone.

Together, the Center for Gender Equity and NRHH hosted a Take Back the Night March against sexual assault.

A congregation of 35 students marched through Forest Grove to Lincoln Park with signs and candles in hand, chanting empowering slogans about strength and sexual consent. After the march, the group gathered in Lincoln Park to share personal stories.

Looking into the faces of these girls who shared my pain and turmoil, it was the first time I’ve felt understood in the three years since I was raped.

It’s not difficult to gain sympathy from my peers when I say I was raped. The word itself is enough to elicit an embrace from a stranger. But, when I stood in that circle and heard my deepest thoughts spoken from the lips of girls I pass on campus without a second glance, it was different.

It’s my fault.

I’m scared.

He hurt me, but I love him.

The nightmares still haven’t stopped.

Wide-eyed, I could not understand how these people, who I’d never really interacted with, knew exactly how I felt three years ago — how a part of me still feels today.

Before Take Back the Night, I blamed myself for protecting my rapist because I cared about him. I thought I was a bad person because I couldn’t accept what he did. My shame isolated me.

Now I realize I was merely another victim, left with scars that I took out on myself. More importantly, I realize that I don’t have to be isolated if I don’t want to be.

A march against sexual assault is powerful enough on its own, but Take Back the Night is so much more than that. It is an extension of a hand to those of us who need one.

Some of the girls I spoke with that night have become my friends, others my acquaintances, and some remain faces I pass in the hallway. That does not change what we all share. We share each others’ experience, strength and hope.

There are still days I feel like I am walking through a battlefield. But at least at Pacific, I’m not walking alone.