Images of strength and courage: Take Back the Night

About 100 students, staff, faculty and community members gathered Wednesday for this year’s Take Back the Night at UC Berkeley. The annual event, dedicated to empowering survivors and allies to take a stand against sexual violence, is one of the many campus events in April to honor National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Brittany Murphy, a Berkeley News photographer and master’s student in the Graduate School of Journalism, captured some of the evening’s highlights. (Story continues below.)

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cici ambrosio is director of women’s resources and sexual harassment and assault resources at UC Berkeley. Since she became involved with Take Back the Night on campus 18 years ago, she has seen the event grow to embrace the issue of intimate-partner violence and the voices of marginalized groups whose narratives haven’t always been part of the conversation. “The recent leaders have really wanted to create that space,” she says. “It’s really acknowledging that multiple forms of violence happen in our communities, and can happen to anyone.”

Performances included powerful spoken-word pieces and original songs by survivors and allies to inspire healing and strength. “Let’s change the conversation,” said Berkeley student Fred Nichols during his spoken-word performance. “Let’s care about our men. Our queer men. Our differently abled men. Our working-class men. Our black and brown men. And let’s grow together.”

Cal alum Gigi Gilbert-Igelsrud performed a song based on the idea that we have bits of soulmates in many different people. “Plato said that we all have a soulmate, another half,” she sang. “One body, split in two, and I gotta spend my whole life lookin’ for you,” she sang. “But, I think that maybe when they separated me from my baby, you fell and broke and shattered into a thousand tiny little pieces. And so I try to find all those tiny little pieces in hopes that someday I’ll be whole again.”

“Hear me now: Tell your story, hold your attacker or abuser accountable in a way that helps you heal,” assistant history professor Stephanie Jones-Rogers counseled the group. “You deserve to heal. You deserve to be happy. And you deserve to be unafraid. Reclaim your power. It won’t be easy, but you won’t be sorry.”

The night closed with a candlelight vigil to honor all of those who have experienced violence.

Learn more about UC Berkeley’s sexual assault prevention and response efforts.