Big Blue Take Back Reclaims The Night on Campus
Friday night saw Kaufman Mall filled with crowds of students, glow sticks waving through the air, who had a sense of determination about them. A crowd of around 100 students gathered together to take a stand against sexual & domestic violence in “Big Blue Take Back.”
The event is ODU’s spin on the traditional “Take Back The Night” march. The purpose is to stand against sexual and domestic violence and give an opportunity for survivors to tell their stories.
The turnout was impressive as it was one of the coldest nights of the semester.
“I’m here because I’ve heard so many stories of it,” Caitlin Rice, a junior, said. “I’m here to support my friend as well.”
Before the event formally kicked off, groups of students roamed between different tables that were set up for supporting organizations, such as ODU Safe Space, YWCA of Norfolk, Men of Quality and M-Power.
The scattered groups of attendees, clutching their glow sticks, joined together in one massive crowd as the president of ODU Vox, Derrion Hawkins, took to the podium on the steps of the Webb Center.
“Tonight we will take a pledge to admit that we need to do something big or small to make a difference,” Hawkins said.
When the crowd was asked to cheer if they had taken the pledge before, and then asked to cheer if they were taking it for the first time tonight, the crowd erupted into applause both times.
Everyone was reminded that they were there to acknowledge the severity of the epidemic of sexual assault and domestic violence and that they can stand up against it.
Following Hawkins speech, the night took a more solemn turn.
A poem was recited from the podium that followed the story of an individual who was sexually assaulted by a close, trusted friend. The poem ended with encouragement, stating that the author will fight back and survive despite the horrible thing that has happened.
The poem set the mood of grim determination throughout the crowd that would prevail for the rest of the night.
“I hope this event is educational and inspires you to continue in the fight against this issue,” Christopher Ndiritu, ODU student body president, said.
Ndiritu shared information about many resources that ODU has available that can help prevent forms of assault. These resources range from “Safe Ride,” which provides shuttles around campus and “Safe Walk,” which allows friends to track you through the LiveSafe app if you’re walking alone.
The microphone was then passed to Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for Student Engagement and Enrollment Services.
“I want to speak for all of us when I say without you students it would all be for none,” Neufeldt said. “You’re standing up tonight and saying we’re going to take it back. We are going to make sure that Old Dominion is a safe place free of violence.”
This October, 30 administrators were trained at ODU in the Green Dot Program. The program, which began at the University of Kentucky, trains staff to be able to identify and help in situations of sexual or domestic violence that may arise.
These administrators were brought on stage and recognized for their achievements. Attendees were then asked to take a pledge against sexual violence.
“Monarchs Unite! Take back the night!” echoed throughout campus as the students marched around Kaufman Mall.
When the march ended, the podium was opened to anyone who wanted to share stories. A number of students bravely took to the stage, many not sharing their names. They all shared stories and statements of defiance and recovery, while some students became visibly angry at how long the problem has gone unrecognized. More than one student was brought to tears recounting their experiences.
After the stories were told, the night ended and students and staff were reminded to spread awareness and to remember that anyone can make a difference.