Their candles were a bright contrast to the dimming light of the evening. There were about 40 of them, candles in hand marching for a cause.
It was the 18th annual Take Back The Night march at Castleton State College and there was most definitely a presence felt that evening.
“I got chills … I felt like I was also standing there for people who weren’t there that night,” said Castleton senior Samantha Barrale, a member of Peer Advocates for Change who helped organize the event.
Though this was only the 18th rally on campus, the first Take Back The Night rallies officially documented was in September in 1976 in Philadelphia, according to the organization’s website.
The goal is for women to “be able to walk the streets without fear,” said sociology professor Linda Olson, who helped organize and bring the march to Castleton in 1996.
“We want to be able to feel safe at night,” said Change Coordinator Amy Bremel.
You could feel the emotion as the group walked from outside the Fine Arts Center over to the front of the Campus Center. There were even signs held by marchers including one that read “Women do not get raped because they were drinking or taking heavy drugs, dressed provocatively, being reckless, women get raped because someone raped them.”
Outside the Campus Center, the group stood for a few minutes and then shared poem by Eve Ensler called “Rising,” which was read by faculty members and students. After the poem, everyone raised their candle into the air, a symbol of one rising and a group overcoming adversity.
As the group marched from the Campus Center to the pavilion they started chanting as loud as they could.
“Wherever we go, however we dress, No means No, and yes means yes!”
“One, 2, 3, 4 We won’t take it anymore! 5, 6, 7, 8 No more violence! No more hate!”
At the pavilion, students and faculty members took part in what was called a speak-out.
Even as the men’s lacrosse team practiced in the background and cars wheeled around the parking lot, people still shared their stories and their experiences.
Once the lights were dimmed and the microphone was set up, the floor was open for anyone to share their experience. It was silent for about 10 minutes until the first person stepped forward.
“I think it’s a really empowering moment for people,” said Bremel.
Though only a handful of stories were shared over the hour, they were all the scariest, saddest stories you could imagine.
One moment stuck out in particular.
A girl got up to share her story and she did, but when she did something especially moving happened. The two people sitting next to her immediately when over and placed their arms around her shoulders consoling her after she sat down.
Even though tears were shed, sadness was not the only emotion swirling around in the pavilion that night.
“It was extremely powerful,” said Barrale.
Bremel was quick to point out that the event is was far from only time students can get help on campus mentioning the PAC phone line and the many trained PAC students.
Though both Barrale and Bremel were pleased with both the rally and the speak-out, both believe there is still room for improvements.
Barrale noted that there were not many men present, and that there are certainly more victims who stayed away too.
She said statistics show one in four is assaulted at one point in college.
“I know that there are many other survivors on campus who did not attend,” said Bremel.
Even though they realize there are likely ways to increase the rally, both were happy with the turnout and how enthusiastic everyone was.
“Everyone that was there wanted to be there,” said Barrale.