It was the second consecutive Take Back The Night march for Abbey Molina, 22, at Humber College’s North campus on Thursday night.
But the fourth-year student in the business program at the University of Guelph-Humber said this time it was about more than marching.
She decided to tell her story of surviving sexual violence through a lyrical drama act.
“My piece had references to suicide, hearing voices and getting bad thoughts,” Molina said. “I am still healing and even though it was once upon a time ago, you never get over it.
“But I also wanted to show that there’s hope,” she said.
Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber hosted their eighth annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) march on Sept. 21 at Humber North Campus.
The event is a hyperlocal extension of Take Back the Night held across the U.S. and Canada in memory of Susan Alexander Speeth, the Philadelphia microbiologist murdered while walking home alone in 1975.
TBTN at Humber College saw students, teachers, staff and faculty join together in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence to reclaim the night and reinstate the right to safe spaces.
“The space to be received, to be told that you matter, that your stories are important and that you are believed are key components in helping someone feel that they belong,” said Sterling Crowe, the Humber College Associate Dean of Student Wellness and Equitable Learning.
“Seeing that demonstration of community and getting that response is what helps reignite that for us,” Crowe said.
The event had a line-up of keynote addresses and activities.
Molina said she was 13 years old when she was assaulted. During these nine years, she said she has made significant strides toward healing.
“I used to be reserved. I didn’t like to be touched or hugged. Now I am a huge hugger,” Molina said.
She said the ability to forgive herself has helped her through this journey.
“I found that the strength to tell my story comes from forgiving myself. It wasn’t my fault,” she said. “I am not responsible and I shouldn’t be held accountable for that.”
With an event like TBTN, there is hope that more survivors will find the courage to come forward and report incidents of violence, said Chris Mahon, the coordinator for Sexual Violence Prevention, Education, at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber.
“The hope is that people see something like that [Abbey’s performance] and if they have experienced sexual violence or know someone who has, they have the courage to seek the healing that they need and the support they deserve,” he said.
“I often talk to students who are happy that this space is there,” Mahon said.
The evening also opened dialogue around the Consent Peer Education Program that encourages peer support and consent culture on campus.
Maria Jose Gonzalez Duvon, a student of the Child and Youth Care program at the Humber Lakeshore campus, is a Consent Peer Educator. She said student survivors find it easier to confide in peers or people their age, a step that ultimately helps them report incidents of sexual violence.
“We try to support students by letting them know that even though it is scary and overwhelming to report, you have support on campus that we want you to access if you wish to do so,” she said.
Gonzalez Duvon said consent peer educators talk about how people should react to self-disclosures by supporting the person, believing them and letting them tell their story.
“When sexual violence happens, you have your agency taken away from you. In a sense, you want to get back that control. It is very important to let survivors decide the next steps for them,” she said.
TBTN ended on a spirited note as participants marched around the campus carrying posters and chanting slogans along the way.