MOORHEAD – University students and activists marched through downtown Moorhead on Thursday night as they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, sexual violence has got to go!”
The “Take Back the Night” march, organized by Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College, highlighted the prevalence of sexual assault and the stigmas faced by those who survive it.
North Dakota State University held its own “Take Back the Night” event in Fargo.
More than 40 people joined the Moorhead march north along Eighth Avenue and ending at Memorial Park. Police blocked off Main Avenue so the marchers could cross safely.
Walking at the back of the pack of marchers, Emily Swedberg, a 25-year-old Concordia graduate, said she participated in the rally for the first time this year.
“I think it’s important to still bring awareness,” she said, noting that sexual assault remains a very “covered up” problem.
“It’s important to feel safe at night, especially as a woman,” she said. “It’s a huge issue.”
Kate Lucero, a 24-year-old who graduated from MSUM last winter, was walking alongside Swedberg. She agreed that sexual assault, as an issue, was largely swept under the rug.
“It’s just something that a campus doesn’t like to talk about,” she said, because incidents of sexual violence are bad publicity for a university.
But Lucero credited MSUM for having a Women’s Center, a place where women can feel comfortable. “Creating those safe spaces on campuses is really important,” she said.
Classes, where one sometimes hears jokes about rape – and the professor says nothing – are not always a safe space, Lucero said.
Kandace Creel Falcón, the director of MSUM’s Women’s and Gender Studies program, was marching behind Lucero and Swedberg.
Falcón said “Take Back the Night” was an important “display of passion” that brought awareness to the public.
People driving by honked their horns, and one person, who yelled out asking what the march was about, was told about its purpose.
At the end of the march, Nancy Boyle of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center spoke. She said it was time to stop pointing a finger at the person who is sexually assaulted—like asking what kind of clothes she was wearing. Instead, Boyle said, the scrutiny should fall on the person who committed the assault.
“Why are people raping? Why are people traumatizing individuals?” are the questions that need to be contemplated, she said.