A few weeks ago, the Caltech Feminist Club hosted our third annual Take Back the Night event. Take Back the Night exists to support victims of sexual violence. It is held around the country every year, and often involves a rally, a candle lit vigil, and a march. Our event was a little smaller than usual, with about 30 people in attendance, so we didn’t hold a march. Instead, we organized a night where students and other Caltech community members can share their stories of encountering sexual violence and listen to those of others.
We set up in the backyard of the Alumni House, which is a single-family home on the edge of campus that the Alumni Association uses for office space. The backyard is very big, and gorgeously landscaped, and many events are held there. We borrowed tables, table cloths, and folding chairs from the Caltech Center for Diversity (CCD), and received funding for dinner for all of our guests from the Caltech Title IX office.
The Feminist Club Executive Committee (Excomm) and a few of the staff from the CCD took about an hour to set up everything at the Alumni House. Once guests arrived, we handed out some stories submitted anonymously by Caltech students to other students who had volunteered to read submissions. We ate dinner, and then the program started.
A few students (undergrad and grad) shared pre-written stories and poems, and then we opened the microphone to the audience, in case anyone was moved to speak or respond to anything they had heard. We listened to stories and responses for about an hour and a half. It was extremely emotional and very, very moving.
We ended the night by handing out tea light candles to everyone in attendance and holding a circle of light and moment of silence. The staff from the CCD was present to help everyone decompress and debrief, and many attendees hung out afterwards to talk about what we’d just heard and experienced.
Altogether I am grateful that we were able to hold an event like this on Caltech’s campus. There were clearly a lot of stories that needed to be heard, and I am grateful that so many of my peers were brave enough to stand before their friends and tell those stories.
Usually, while writing this post, I would be at Caltech playing volleyball. I begin school eith preseason, which for those unfamiliar (or are planning on joining women’s volleyball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, men’s waterpolo, or cross country) is a 5 week long period before school begins where the sports teams I listed before practice and compete. My life during preseason is basically volleyball 24/7. Two practices a day (during school only one) and game days three days a week. No school work to worry about, spending time with my teammates all day, a nice refresher before school begins.
Every year, the Caltech Society of Women Engineers attends the National SWE conference to network with other SWE Chapters and to hustle for jobs. Last year, the event was in Minneapolis, and the year before in Austin. This time around, it’s in Anaheim which is much more convenient for us. Since it is much closer, we were able to send many more delegates to attend and miss fewer classes in the process of doing so.
It’s truly Autumn in Scotland now. It reached 0 degrees Celsius today, or 32 Fahrenheit for you yanks. They’re setting up the Christmas market downtown (as thanksgiving isn’t a thing here they just skip directly from Halloween to Christmas). Snow isn’t falling, but it does seem to be raining every other day. And it’s pleasant, quite pleasant. The rain turns Edinburgh into even more of a dramatic and beautiful city than usually is.