On Friday night, the glowing orbs of tiny candles dotted the steps of the Art Museum, providing a source of warmth and light in the cold October air.
Gathered around the steps were members of the Bowdoin and Brunswick community: student leaders, Safe Space volunteers, staff from the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Education, and members of the Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine. They had come together for the annual candlelight vigil and walk around campus known as Take Back the Night.
Bowdoin’s Take Back the Night organizer Claire Burns ’21 said the event has a long history. “The origins of the event go back to the 1960s, 1970s, when we were in sort of a crisis in terms of sexual violence and women needed to physically reclaim space they felt unsafe in, mostly at night,” she said.
Today, Take Back the Night is an international nonprofit which inspires and leads walks such as Friday’s all around the country. Along with the walk itself, Take Back the Night aims to share personal stories of survivors to raise awareness. On Friday, several students shared either their own personal story or relayed the stories of others. One example of the latter was especially relevant—the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, read by Jenna Scott ’19.
Once the stories had been shared, the walk began with the group following the lead of Lisa Peterson, who is Bowdoin’s associate director of gender violence prevention and education. The route ended with a reception at the Center for Sexuality, Women, and Gender (SWAG) on 24 College Street.
At SWAG, Peterson both praised students involved in the event and emphasized the significance of sexual assault for all community members. “I am so moved by the students who shared their experiences and who want to find ways where we can come together as a campus and prevent violence and make this a safe and respectful place,” she said.
“This is something that impacts our community in many different ways and impacts all of us directly or indirectly. We all have a role in prevention,” she concluded.
Photos by Michele Stapleton