Thursday, students will march through the streets of Old Town in an effort to end the silence surrounding sexual assault. The event, Take Back the Night, will begin at 6 p.m. on the Lory Student Center Plaza.
“It’s kind of a threefold (event),” said Casey Malsam, an advisor for the group organizing the event, Campus Feminist Alliance. The night will begin with a survivor “speak out,” where survivors of sexual assault can share their stories.
“They share their story however they want to share it,” she said. “Some people plan to speak, others just come and then feel moved enough to do it.”
Afterward, participants will march to Old Town, “chanting and celebrating ending the silence around sexual assault,” Malsam said. Once in Old Town, marchers will gather in the square where this year’s keynote speaker, Jill Jaeger, a recent CSU graduate, will speak about “the power that our youth have, our young adults have in harnessing advocacy and thus creating change,” Malsam said.
Malsam is also an advocate at the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, a co-sponsor of the event. WGAC is part of the student diversity offices and works to provide outreach and prevention as well as “direct advocacy to survivors.”
According to Malsam, one of the best things about the event is the fact that it is run by students.
Riley Gearhard, a sophomore pre-med student is an executive member of Campus Feminist Alliance, a student run organization that plans Take Back the Night each year at CSU.
“We’re allies to feminism and we’re trying to get stuff out there about sexual assault,” Gearhard said.
Take Back the Night is an internationally known foundation that “serves to create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives,” according to the organization’s website. Each year colleges all over the nation organize rallies as a way to “take a stand against sexual violence.”
Gearhard said this is an important event because it helps raise awareness in the community about sexual assault.
“People don’t realize how often it happens and don’t think it’s going to happen to them,” Gearhard said. “It is something that — since we don’t think about it — we tend to put on the back burner.”
The first step in removing sexual assault from our culture is talking about it, Gearhard said.
He believes this event also shows that “as a community we are supportive of people who have gone through this and of individuals who are survivors and who are very strong, who have had a very traumatic experience occur and yet they still are able to share their stories and help us learn and grow as a society.”
Josie Bunker, a junior international studies and German double major who is also a member of CFA planning the event, said this will be her first year in attendance. She said she is excited for the event and believes it is good to host at CSU.
“It helps get students involved in such a big issue that can be relevant to many of us and it also helps unite both the community in Fort Collins and the student body on issues that impact everyone,” Bunker said.
Gearhard is hoping next semester more students will join CFA to take part in planning the event. He said as a male in the group he is in a unique position and would like to see discussion on how more men can become allies for feminism too.
“It doesn’t happen to just women it happens to all identities of gender so it’s a really cool idea for me to see (the organization) grow,” Gearhard said.
Students who are interested in joining CFA next semester can contact the organization through the SLiCE office.
Collegian Writer Katie O’Keefe can be reached at email@example.com.