By Laurel O’Keefe and Katie Krahulik
NEWS EDITOR /ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
Take Back the Night, an annual rally and march hosted by Collegiate Women of Color, Campus Feminist Collective (CFC) and Student Advocates of Safer Sex (SASS), filled the Student Center Theater with emotion on Friday, April 15, as students gathered to speak out and stand in solidarity against sexual violence.
The night of activism was meant to “raise awareness and educate the public on issues of sexual and gender-based violence and to support and empower survivors,” according to a press release.
The event, which began at 7 p.m., invited students to a stage to speak about their experiences regarding sexual violence in a safe space. The speak-out portion of the event was meant to bring awareness to the widespread issue of sexual violence, specifically within the Hofstra community, while also providing support for survivors.
Lola Solis, a sophomore history, political science and women’s studies major – who also helped coordinate the event through CFC – said, “I was really happy with the way Take Back the Night turned out this year, there was about 100 people at its peak so that was a new record.”
Solis continued, “I was really proud of all of my friends that got up and spoke; I know it was really important for them to let out a lot of the emotions and feelings that they had because it’s been bottled up for so long. And to let it out, especially in front of people who are there to support you, is really important and empowering.”
As successful of a turnout the night received, some felt there is room for improvement in coming events.
Junior journalism major, Robin Pereira said, “Take Back the Night was very successful turnout, however I hope for next year to get more than 150, maybe 250 students.”
She continued, “I am disappointed, however, of the Greek life turnout because women in sororities have a twice as likely chance of being victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. It would be more important next year for them to come out just to educate themselves and for fraternity men just to get more of an education on the subject.”
Guest speakers, one of whom was Hofstra alumna and New York Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, kicked off the event by speaking about how important activism against these issues are.
Solages, who graduated from Hofstra in 2007, spoke about her career path and how she first recognized the changes that needed to be made on college campuses.
“I always knew at my core that I really care about people – that I wanted to be there to effect change. I studied athletic training here at Hofstra. I used to travel with our football team, the lacrosse team and you know it was funny because I would get into these awkward situations where I would be with the athletes and I always felt that unsafe feeling,” Solages said.
She continued, “So one day my friend and I were talking about what we could do. And we really never had guidance. It was something that was really never talked about in college.”
Solages explained that after working her way into political action, she realized why her role was so important. She motivated students to join her path of activism, with the motto, “the hushed mouth doesn’t get fed.”
“I have a theory in my head … this little motto – ‘the hushed mouth doesn’t get fed.’ If you don’t speak up you’ll never get what you want,” Solages said. “If I don’t go up to Albany … and fight for legislation on sexual harassment on college campuses, if I don’t go out and vote for pro-choice legislation … I won’t succeed.”
Solages’ message carried throughout the night as students came to the stage to open up about their own experiences. Some felt that although they couldn’t speak themselves, they had an empowering voice through others.
Solis said, “I myself thought about going up there a few times but I didn’t. I don’t like crying in front of people so I just didn’t know how to do it, but I was definitely more close to going up and speaking this time than usual.”
“So it was definitely really empowering to see all these [people] give their stories and how despite everything that’s happened, they are still strong enough to go up and talk about it in front of people and go about their day. So I’m really happy with the way it turned out,” Solis said.
The speak-out was followed by a protest march around campus, accompanied by Public Safety for support. Students marched with signs with messages such as “Your Feelings Are Valid,” and “ONLY YES MEANS YES,” and chanted slogans such as “Racist, sexist, anti-gay – you can’t take our rights away,” and “Yes means yes, no means no – Whatever we wear wherever we go!”