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Students take back the night during Gender + Equality Center's candlelight vigil, march

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Take Back the Night candles

Attendees hold candles during the Gender + Equality center's Take Back the Night event Oct. 3 in the Unity Garden.

Candles were aglow on the South Oval at a nighttime vigil designed to raise awareness for sexual assault survivors.

The OU Gender + Equality Center’s “Take Back the Night” event took place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3 and included a candlelight vigil and march. The vigil took place at the Unity Garden on the South Oval. Linda Terrell, a sexual assault survivor and OU graduate who started the event in 1982, was the keynote speaker, and there was also time set aside for survivors to share their stories and get support.

Terrell said at the first "Take Back the Night," people on Campus Corner threw things at her group as they marched, a sharp contrast to the supportive environment of last night’s vigil.

Terrell’s speech focused on three main topics: using votes and vocal advocacy to create change, practicing self-care and believing sexual assault victims when they disclose their experiences.

“I want to encourage you all to take the energy that you feel here and the support that you feel here from each other and move that into to making sure . . . those stories are told,” Terrell said. “We’re not going to be silent about this.”

The “speak-out” portion of the evening was a chance for sexual assault survivors to share their stories. A microphone was placed at the top of the Unity Garden steps and was open to all.

Three survivors shared their stories. One said she was young when she was assaulted. One said he was assaulted at a party shortly after coming out as gay. One said he didn’t realize he was assaulted until the #MeToo movement started. All three were met with cries of “we believe you!” from the crowd.  

Then, Gender + Equality Center representatives passed out candles and lit them, and then the attendees marched from the Unity Garden to the Bizzell Memorial Library and back. Each person had a paper fan. The chant written on the back of the fans was as follows:

“What do we want? Safe campuses! When do we want them? Now! Claim our bodies! Claim our right! Take a stand! Take Back the Night! Out of the halls! Into the streets! We won’t be raped! We won’t be beat! We have the power! We have the right! We are here! Take Back the Night!”

The vigil was scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m., but it ended at 8:05 p.m.

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