For the last night of the Office for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response’s (OSAPR) annual “Take Back the Night,” students gathered for a candle light vigil to support victims of sexual violence.
About 70 people stood in a circle on the steps of Memorial Church, each holding a lit candle. After the Radcliffe Pitches performed an a cappella version of “What a Wonderful World,” attendees were encouraged to speak in an open forum. Students and staff members shared personal stories of how they, or someone they knew, had been personally affected by encounters with sexual abuse.
“I think every year we continue doing the candlelight vigil because so many sexual assault survivors never talk about what happened to them,” said Sarah A. Rankin, director of the OSAPR.
Referring to frequently-used statistics on sexual abuse, she added, “It gives a sort of personal connection to an abstract concept.”
Organizers said one of the event’s major objectives was to address the issue of sexual violence on Harvard’s campus.
“Even in a community like Harvard, there are survivors of rape, sexual assault, and relationship abuse,” said John M. Sheffield II ’09.
Fellow organizer W. Patrice “Reese” Fogle ’09 said she agreed.
“This issue often gets shafted because it is so close to home,” she said.
Rankin said she admired speakers for their willingness to come forward. “I am always touched and moved by the courage that people have for speaking,” she said.
Attendees said they took away a message of solidarity.
“[The candlelight vigil] lets people know that we recognize that [sexual violence] is happening here and you’re not alone in it,” said Michelle E. Crentsil ’10, who attended the event.
But some said that last night’s event was only the first step in preventing sexual violence.
“‘Take Back the Night’ proves there is a core body of people that are intolerant of sexual abuse in our community,” said freshman proctor and OSAPR prevention specialist Gordon W. Braxton. “We need to transform that into a culture that is intolerant of sexual violence.”
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