Chico takes back the night in silence

Sharon Martin

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Photograph by Sam Rivera Students walked through downtown Chico Thursday in pairs during Take Back the Night’s candlelit march.

Photograph by Sam Rivera
Students walked through downtown Chico Thursday in pairs during Take Back the Night’s candlelit march.

People demanded to know what was going on as men on the street shouted sexual remarks and many passersby stared in awe as a silent bunch of students made their presence known.

Hundreds of Chico State students wove through the streets in complete silence for a candlelit march during Take Back the Night on Thursday.

Take Back the Night is an international stand against sexual violence. For the past 38 years, the event has been held at colleges and universities across the United States.

At Chico State, Take Back the Night is a biannual event put on by the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center Women’s Program.

This year, the night consisted of women survivor and gender-inclusive survivor speakouts, and allowed people to share their stories in a safe environment. It included  a rape culture workshop, a poetry and music session and keynote speaker Jacke Humphrey-Straub, a gender equality activist.

The night concluded with the candlelit silent march through downtown Chico. The march showed support for victims of rape and sexual assault and created awareness for these issues.

The turnout was amazing, said Laura Napoliello, a senior political science major and women’s program coordinator for the GSEC.

“It was amazing to see this many people want to address the issue of sexual assault and rape in our society,” she said.

Desiree Stevens, a junior double major in sociology and Spanish, recited the poem “Phenomenal Women” by Maya Angelou during the Power of Words poetry and music session.

“I decided to do Take Back the Night because I think it’s really important for women to reclaim their safety at night,” Stevens said. “The candles bring visibility to what we’re doing and the silence echoes how women feel as victims of sexual assault.”

Olivia VanDamme, a junior double major in geography and Latin American studies, took part in the Chico State march for her second time.

“We could be yelling ‘take back the night!’ but I think the silence is what makes it that much more powerful,” she said. “It gives us a time to reflect about all the women and men who’ve been affected.”

Sexual assault is unreported 60 percent of the time, making it one of the most underreported crimes, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.

“When we’re out marching, you feel the tension,” VanDamme said. “People don’t like talking about this and people have some strong feelings about it.”

Instead of chanting, students held signs voicing their stance on sexual assault and rape. For Napoliello, the silent march was a new experience.

“I’ve shouted at the top of my lungs in queer marches and pride marches, but I’ve never participated in a silent march, and there’s so much power in silence,” Napoliello said. “I loved it.”


Sharon Martin can be reached at [email protected] or @SharonBMartin on Twitter.

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