As the sunset deepened into the sky across Fairfield on Tuesday, April 1, a group of Fairfield students gathered in the Barone Campus Center where they were handed candles and white ribbons. Together, this group was getting ready to take a journey across the campus and “Take Back the Night.”
As a group of about 40 students walked through the campus, stops were made along the way where members of the group shared personal accounts of sexual assault, read poetry and performed dramatic monologues.
The group began their journey at the BCC Info Desk. They ventured to the stop sign in front of the Levee, to the path behind the field hockey field and then to an area on the basketball courts. They then traveled to the Quad, where two students performed monologues, then to the Stag statue and eventually finished in front of the BCC.
These spots on campus were each chosen for different reasons, according to Astrid Quiñones ‘14, a mentor of the event.
“These are spots where some are not as well lit and some are well lit,” said Quiñones. “Not one spot is more important than the other, but it’s just taking the journey on campus and looking at it from the perspective that these things don’t just happen behind closed doors, these things can happen in light, they can happen in darkness, they can happen anywhere.”
The event, which is planned annually by the Gender, Sex and Sexuality Commons group on campus, has been happening for several years. This year the walk was planned by Samantha Porter ‘16, who joined the group this year and performed her own piece during the walk.
“To plan the event, there’s a lot of reaching out to people, thinking ahead, trying to get support, trying to get pieces from writers, trying to match that up with performers who felt comfortable reading the pieces from the writers,” said Porter. “When someone writes something, it’s very personal and sometimes it’s hard to match with a performer. Or, sometimes someone wants to write something and it’s hard to get it out.”
The pieces were performed to help break the silence that the victims of sexual assault often feel oppressed by. By sharing their stories, Quiñones and Porter said they hoped that the group would be able to feel comfortable and safe around one another. With each stop along the journey, the event grew more powerful, resulting in “snaps” instead of applause. Some even shed tears while relating to each personal story.
Quiñones said: “I hope that hearing these stories don’t make you fear. The importance is realizing that this can stop, we can be allies, and we can value each other as human beings.”
Porter and Quiñones wanted to create a safe space for those directly affected by sexual assault and for those who had family and friends affected by sexual assault. By taking a walk instead of sitting in an auditorium, the organizers wanted to create solidarity amongst the group.
“Every step that you take, you’re reflecting, you’re thinking, you’re wondering what the next story is going to be and how that story is going to impact your life,” stated Quiñones. “Walking gives us unity; you might be affected by every story differently, but you all walked.”
At the end of the walk, the group came together and spoke about the experiences shared during the walk whether it be about the story that was the most powerful, personal experiences, or just simply how to comfort a friend or family member who has been forced to deal with the effects of sexual assault.
Freshman Alexandra Martin, a close friend of Porter and Quiñones and member of GSS, attended the event in hopes to discover the best method of comfort.
“I’ve always wanted to support my peers who have had to go through things that I haven’t had to go through,” said Martin. “The event helped me learn about people I’m close to and it helped me have a deeper understanding of them, but it doesn’t change how I view them.”
Porter said that she couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
“I think it was beautiful. I thought it was real and I felt connected with every person that was walking behind me,” said Porter. “And when we came back, we had a discussion and I felt like every person in the room wanted to be there and they were concerned and passionate and it blew me away.”