CORTLAND, N.Y. — SUNY Cortland students and faculty marched to end sexual assault and rape Wednesday night.
Each semester, SUNY Cortland’s Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) club hosts a Take Back the Night March. Students and faculty march and chant together to raise awareness and promote ending rape.
The event began on the steps of Corey Union where members of SAFER spoke to the crowd. The president of SAFER, Amanda Lagan, said she joined the club in order to better cope with her sexual assault, and felt welcomed by the student support team.
Nanette Pasquarello, SUNY Cortland’s Title IX coordinator, shared some history of Take Back the Night. The march has been happening on campus and all over the country for more than 40 years, she said.
“This march is about supporting survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence” Pasquarello said. “It’s about healing. It’s about reclaiming power. Take Back the Night is a call for a change for our campus culture.”
Kyle Richards, a SUNY Cortland football player who recently made headlines after he was credited with stopping an attempted rape at a party in Long Island, addressed the crowd, posing the question: “If we have mothers, sisters, grandmothers and teachers that we respect, why can’t we respect everybody?”
Despite being shot twice during the incident, Richards said it didn’t compare to the negative energy he felt after seeing the act being committed.
“It’s unreal and unfathomable that somebody could think like that,” Richard said.
Tatianna Nolan joined SAFER because she thought it would allow her to process her situation and her emotions after her sexual assault. What she didn’t expect was the club allowing her to share her story to a larger audience.
After Nolan’s speech, the march began. Students were given glow sticks that represented candles and cards as they chanted throughout the night. They marched to Tompkins Street and down Broadway Avenue before returning to the steps of Corey Union.
“Every semester, new people are telling their stories, which is incredible,” said Alexa Jones, a senior at SUNY Cortland who has been to the march several times. “The campus community continues to create a safe space to bring those out of silence to let their voices be heard.”
Kathleen Tsantes, a junior at SUNY Cortland, was a first-time attendee to the march. “I didn’t expect the turnout to be so large and supportive” she said. “As a woman, I felt very empowered by the stories told and felt surrounded by a community that cares.” Tsantes says she plans to join SAFER next semester.
Some of the chants for the march included “survivors unite, take back the night” and “hey hey, ho ho, sexual assault has got to go”. Passing drivers honked their horns and pedestrians and cheered for the students.
The Take Back the Night March happens every semester at SUNY Cortland, but SAFER has other events throughout the year that strive to raise awareness and prevent sexual assault.