UPenn: Took Back The Night

Take Back the Night Poster Upenn campus peaceful protest

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on April 27, 2015

On a recent Thursday evening, as the sun started to set on Penn’s college green, students began to gather there in solidarity. The reason: Take Back The Night, a nationwide peaceful protest that focuses on eliminating sexual and domestic violence. A poster making session had been held the night before at the Penn Women’s Center, and numerous brightly colored signs were created for the cause. The signs were distributed to all of the students, faculty, and other protesters who joined the Take Back the Night rally and march. A small speaker series took place at  six pm on the stairs of college hall. Despite the vivid neon posters that littered the grass around them, the atmosphere was surprisingly somber and thoughtful, as the partakers listened intently to the shocking statistics and stories of sexual assault.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

peaceful protest college hall Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Immediately following the speakers, the energy suddenly reversed from solemn to lively. Protesters quickly filled in the ranks and began to march behind the Take Back the Night leaders. The massive protest looped throughout the entire campus with the beat of drums, and sounds of shouting and chanting filling the air. It was remarkable to witness the passion of these students, teachers and others alike, standing up and speaking out against sexual violence. But up to this point, I had felt like an outsider to the event, walking on the peripheries and hiding behind the lens of my camera.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

student protest at Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

It wasn’t until I was forced to put my camera down that realized my true purpose of being there. Photography was not permitted at the final installment of Take Back the Night, so what is not pictured in this article is the beautiful candle light vigil that took place at the end of the walk. The steps of Wynn Commons were filled with supporters and survivors and candles and blankets were passed out to everyone. At the center of the small stage, a single microphone stood surrounded by a semi circle of flickering candles. Anyone was invited to go up and share his or her stories. The ambiance in that mini amphitheater was like nothing I had every experienced before. The stories that were shared evoked diverse emotions; unbelievable sadness for what these individuals had endured but also great inspiration because of the bravery it took to reveal their experiences.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

take back the night. Student protest at Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

As I sat there on the cold stone steps, listening to the stories, watching the delicate flame of my candle waver in the wind, I understood what a truly exceptional event this was. Not only does Take Back the Night advocate for the abolition of sexual abuse and assault, but it also provides a setting for those seeking solace and support, including myself.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

take back the night. Protest at the U of Penn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

April 13th, 2012. That was the night I had the opportunity to take back because of this wonderful and empowering event. Although I was not able to find the strength within me to share my story at the vigil, I walked away from the event knowing that I am a survivor and not a victim. For too long I have blamed myself for my rape, for putting myself in a vulnerable position and allowing such an awful experience to happen to me. But after sitting on those steps of Wynne Commons, listening to other survivors break the silence to end the violence, I realized that what happened to me was not my fault and that I am, in no way, responsible for my assault. Attending Take Back The Night was one of the best experiences of my life. I had the chance to take back a night I never wanted to happen and replace it with the amazing memories I made at this peaceful protest.

Editor’s Note: The author elects to remain anonymous.

 

Gregory Lewis: Shadows

portrait of woman who looks depressed

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Posted on March 23, 2015 by Gregory Lewis

“Here is the tragedy: when you are the victim of depression, not only do you feel utterly helpless and abandoned by the world, you also know that very few people can understand, or even begin to believe, that life can be this painful. There is nothing I can think of that is quite as isolating as this.” – Giles Andreae

Often as we go about lives we fail to notice that those near us are going through difficult times. Several of which struggle with mental illness such as schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and clinical depression. 1 in 10 Americans suffer from depression at one point or another. However, over 80% of people with clinical symptoms are not receiving treatment for their depression.

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young woman with depression

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Jessica was a first generation college student who graduated valedictorian of her high school . Her entire school was excited when she was accepted into an Ivy League institution. Jessica was moving quite far away from home but she deemed it worth it as she was pursuing her dreams at her dream school.

Jessica was quick to make friends once she began college because of her “bubbly personality”. However,  several months after being on campus she became extremely homesick. Additionally, her boyfriend of 4 years began what would eventually be two tours in Iraq. Jessica latter admitted that this added significant stress in her life as she was constantly worried about his well-being. Further adding to Jessica’s stress was her grades began to slip.

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depression

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Jessica began avoiding interactions with other and even stopped going to classes. Her eating habits completely changed and she began hating her body. She even said at one point that she wanted to just, “end it all”.

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Portraiture_5f-BLOG

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Thankfully, Jessica had made a close friend in her first few weeks at her school. This friend would constantly check on Jessica and encourage her to go to class. Eventually, with the encouragement of this friend, sought professional help to address this change. After having being diagnosed with clinical depression Jessica began to fight this crippling disease. Jessica still has a long road ahead of her but she looks forward to the future with a positive outlook.

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Photography and Text by Gregory Lewis, Copyright 2015

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About the Author: Gregory Lewis is majoring in Nursing, enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2015.