“We have the power. We have the right. The streets are ours. Take back the night.”
This was one of the 12 chants echoing through the streets of Fort Collins last night at the Campus Feminist Alliance, or CFA, annual Take Back the Night.
The event began in the Sculpture Garden at the Lory Student Center with a speak-out, which is an open mic opportunity for people to stand up and talk about their experiences with sexual violence.
Everyone who stood up and spoke into the microphone, told stories of rape, sexual mutilation, physical violence and molestation. None of the stories told could be considered happy ones, but the overall message the speakers articulated was one of support, unity and strength.
“I thank you for your voice. I thank you for breaking through the silence,” One speaker said. “I am grateful that you are here.”
Most of the speakers were women, although some men did tell their own stories and the stories of women they know. Which is significant because this is the first year for Take Back the Night to be all-gender inclusive.
“I want to emphasize that it was a very difficult decision to make.” CFA member Shanna Bennell said. “But we wanted to minimize marginalization as much as we could.”
The decision, which took months to make, was under consideration due to a survey filled out during last years’ event where many people asked for the change, according to CFA member Alan Leonard.
“Part of the idea of Take Back the Night is that women are taking back the night and men are supporting that,” he said.
Yet, even though this years’ event was all-gender inclusive, women are still the leaders, according to Leonard.
This was apparent when it came time to begin the march, which directly followed the speak-out.
The march, from the LSC to Old Town Square, was lead by the Take Back the Night cheerleaders, who were all dressed in different bright pink outfits, and the members of CFA.
They began the walk by raising their posters saying things like “Stop Rape” and “Women Unite” and raising their voices with chants and songs. Many women’s voices were hoarse by the end.
A lot of them, though, were still shouting until the very last minute.
“Claim our bodies. Claim our rights. Take a stand. Take back the night.”
CFA meets Mondays at 7 p.m. in room 208 in the LSC and the meetings are open to anyone. For more information and related events, visit http://lamar.colostate.edu/~campfem/leslie.html.