Hundreds of students, faculty and staff from six area universities gathered in the horseshoe at Loyola University Thursday evening during the Crescent City’s 28th annual Take Back the Night candlelight vigil and March Against Sexual Violence. Tulane University, Southern University of New Orleans, Xavier University, the University of New Orleans, Loyola University and Dillard University, as well as several community partners, participated in the event aimed at combating sexual violence.
“Take Back the Night is an annual opportunity to stand publicly in solidarity with survivors and to work toward prevention of gender violence,” said Patricia Boyett, director of the Women’s Resource Center at Loyola, “The event focuses on advocating for survivors, raising awareness about the persistent pervasiveness of gender violence, working toward changing the rape culture that perpetuates it, and creating a more just world, where all genders are treated with equal respect and dignity.”
Dillard President Walter Kimbrough addressed the crowd as did Loyola President Tania Tetlow, who told the crowd, “I need you to work harder, to raise your own ambitions, to hone every skill and talent you have, and then go out there and fight. Tonight we march, tomorrow we work.”
Tulane President Michael Fitts listened among the gathered as one of the students at his university, Bridget Lee, recounted her sexual assault five years ago. As many in the crowd wiped away tears, Lee, the featured speaker, advised victims of sexual assault; “You speak and you speak and you speak until they are forced to listen to us.”
As the Genesis Gospel Choir performed, participants lit a sea of candles and marched from the Loyola campus, down St. Charles Avenue, and up Broadway Avenue to Freret Street. The march ended at Loyola’s Danna Student Center where a “speak-out” event was held that gave sexual assault victims a chance to share their stories.