The Aggieville district heard the proud rally cries of roughly 30 voices ring out as people took to the streets Thursday night. The group was gathered as a part of Take Back the Night, an event organized in part by K-State’s Delta chapter of Gamma Rho Lambda, the LGBT Resource Center, the Women’s Center, the women’s studies department and K-State Counseling Services.
The event began in Bosco Plaza, where Mary Todd, director of the K-State Women’s Center, gave an unconventional introduction to the crowd, gathered to support women’s rights and fight the violence against women perpetuated in today’s society.
“I’m not happy to see you here tonight,” Todd said to the group of men and women who had come out to participate. “Ponder it. Why are you here?”
Todd said that the very need to stand up against violence toward women was shameful, and with the support of a cheering crowd, she explained the veil of fear women are forced to live in.
“Think of all the people that are lost, because they’re killed by the one that’s supposed to love them the most,” Todd said. “My point is, when it’s dark outside, why don’t we go out? What will they say if something bad happens? ‘She shouldn’t have been out there. It’s her fault.’ It is never your fault. The crime belongs to the criminal.”
As the audience clapped, cheered and held up handmade signs in support, and Ellen Ludwig, coordinator for Take Back the Night and senior in fine arts, finished the introductions, a young woman stepped forward and took the microphone. Identifying herself only as Jessica from Texas, she shared a personal story that brought the crowd to silence.
“He wasn’t scared of me, like I was of him,” Jessica said, describing her boyfriend during high school. “He said, ‘You made me rape you.’ And this is the worst part: I apologized to him.”
Students in the crowd were visibly shaken by Jessica’s testimony, and her story reaffirmed many participants’ convictions in the purpose of the event.
“It was really hard to hear,” said Alexis Pultz, junior in digital arts. “It could have been anyone, you know?”
Kelly Service, junior in secondary education, agreed and said that the event should raise awareness to stories like Jessica’s.
“It was really intense,” Service said. “I hope people know it’s not a joke.”
Jessica closed her anecdote with a seed of hope.
“When my now husband and I started dating three years ago, I had to slowly learn that he meant what he said. He was telling the truth when he said he loved me,” Jessica said. “It’s a struggle to stay strong, but I try. And I’m taking back my life.”
In addition to Jessica’s personal story, Pamela Satterwhite, author of the novel “Waking Up,” was invited to speak at Take Back the Night. Satterwhite spoke on the power differences between those of different classes, between parents and children, and between men and women, and how these imbalances profoundly affect society.
“As women, there are times when we rule the home. But in wider spheres of power, our fate has been used as bait,” Satterwhite said. “Contempt is a weapon of the weak. We’ve been instructed to play the passive role, and we must reject that.”
With those words in mind, the rally members took their signs and shirts and began a 20-minute march throughout campus and Aggieville. Chants and jokes emanated from the loudspeaker that led the group as the women and men paraded around Manhattan, shouting reaffirming words of rebellion.
“Women united will never be divided,” the group shouted. “We have the power, we have the right. The streets are ours, take back the night.”
The chanting crowd drew people out of Aggieville businesses to stop and watch the group on the sidewalk. Rally members and bystanders had a few friendly exchanges. and supporters on the street jumped into the group and continued following the march until it returned to Bosco Plaza. Other Aggieville patrons, however, met the crowd’s enthusiasm with their own sarcasm and fake chants.
“A lot of people have problems with women having power and asserting it,” said Stacey Hauck, senior in social work. “People need to stop thinking like that.”
The night concluded with a candlelight vigil to remember those lost to domestic violence and rape, as well as a performance by local rock band The Field Day Jitters. Pultz, Hauck and Service said they’d wished the turnout had been bigger, but Ludwig felt the group was just right.
“It was so moving to get to hear the stories that we did tonight, ” Ludwig said. “I’m happy to see this group of people. It was a success.”