SUNY Cortland 'Take Back the Night' march draws hundreds

CORTLAND, N.Y. - Hundreds of SUNY Cortland students gathered in front of Corey Union on the SUNY Cortland campus Wednesday night to rally against sexual and domestic violence in the bi-annual Take Back the Night march, hosted by the campus’s SAFER (Students Active for Ending Rape) club.

As students poured in from surrounding dorms and education buildings, SAFER club members passed out stickers donning the club’s signature teal ribbon and the motto, “I Stand with Sexual Assault Survivors,” chant sheets for the ensuing march, and glow sticks as substitute vigil candles.

Kaley Clavell, SAFER club president and senior Early Childhood/Childhood Education major, kicked off the event with a charged speech about unifying as a community to stand against violence.

“This march is to support survivors and raise awareness about sexual violence, but in a broader sense, it’s about creating a safer community unified against violence, and spreading love,” Clavell said. “There are many kinds of survivors, including survivors of dating violence and sexual assault, and we walk for all of you.”

Students gather on the steps of Corey Union Wednesday night for the bi-annual Take Back the Night march (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum delivered a succinct, poignant speech about the word he regards as the “foulest word in the English language.”

“The ugliest word, as I say every year, is the word ‘rape.’ I can’t stand it, and I know, neither can you,” Bitterbaum said. “I’m amazed to see this crowd, and know that each of us can be an advocate to make sure that sexual assault and sexual violence does not only not occur on this campus, but as you go forth into society, you make sure that it never occurs where you are. We have to speak up.”

Nanette Pasquarello, SAFER club advisor and SUNY Cortland Title IX Coordinator, gave a brief history of the Take Back the Night march and its mission.

“Take Back the Night march is a vigil and march that goes back more than 40 years, and events like this are held all over the country. Cortland has been holding Take Back the Night marches every semester for many years,” Pasquarello said. “This march is about supporting survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. It’s about healing, and it’s about reclaiming power. Take Back the Night is a call to change campus culture.”

A survivor of domestic violence spoke at the event, delivering a moving speech about healing and overcoming the stigma and struggle of domestic violence and reclaiming the love she lost for herself in the process.

For the first time in the event’s history, SUNY Cortland A Capella joined SAFER on the landing in front of Corey Union and sang a stirring rendition of Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful.”

Karla Alwes, Distinguished Teaching Professor in SUNY Cortland’s English Department, kicked off the march with roaring gusto, and the mass of students commenced up Prospect Terrace, chanting “Survivors Unite, Take Back the Night.”