Illinois State University’s Feminist Led Activist Movement to Empower (F.L.A.M.E.) took back the night again on October 26. The Take Back the Night march has been held worldwide since the mid-1970s. The march began as an expression of protest against the violence that women routinely experienced publicly when they walked alone at night. The march was originally designed to speak out to raise community awareness about this violence and to symbolically undermine the message that women can’t be safe walking alone at night. The forms of these marches has grown over the years. At Illinois State all sexes and genders go on the march.
At Illinois State the event is designed to give voice to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and to raise campus and community awareness about sexualized and domestic violence. This year, seven survivors shared some very difficult and very powerful stories to a packed room. The courage of these survivors was honored when thunderous applause shook the room after each speaker. Both a gender-neutral and a female friendly safe space was open to participants to discuss and reflect on the speakers’ powerful words.
F.L.A.M.E. member Emma Belz led the march through Normal, passing high-risk sites. “Having a group of fired-up, angry activists chanting into the night that we demand safety and won’t take anything less is so powerful” Belz said. “Events like Take Back the Night are important to provide evidence that campuses and communities care and support survivors. Providing them with a safe outlet to share their stories and be believed is crucial.”
As leader of the march for the past three years, Belz’s most favorite part is the nods and thumbs up the group received from drivers and pedestrians, and people cheering out of the windows of their apartments and the doors of their businesses. “Being at the front of the crowd, I couldn’t see the trail of support behind me, but when we all came together for the candlelit vigil, it was so inspiring to see all the support and love we have for the survivors and those no longer with us,” Belz said.
This event is for survivors, to use their voice and their stories to inspire the community to speak out against violence. It is also for those who are still finding their voice, and those who may not be able to share. “We have events like this because safe is not a request, it is a basic human right,” Belz said. “We have events like these because even one more story is too many.”
We thank everyone who came out for their support to this important cause and the speakers for their continuous courage.
Bailey-Marie Schmid is the undergraduate assistant for the women’s and gender studies program