ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — Thursday was the 44th annual Take Back the Night rally and march in Ann Arbor, a national event to celebrate survivors and end sexual violence.
The rally before the march featured a number of speeches including from politicians like Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor.
It's a national movement that’s had a big presence in Ann Arbor for over 40 years. After two years of the pandemic, Take Back the Night is taking back Ann Arbor streets.
“It's a celebration of survivors and a call to action for not only the university community, but the community as a whole to end sexual violence as we know it,” said Kaitlyn Colyer, senior student leader for Take Back the Night Ann Arbor.
Colyer joined Take Back the Night as a freshman. In her time at U-M, she says the event has made a difference.
“It's been improved even in the last four years," Colyer said. "Seeing people want to attend this event and that’s great because people are now aware this is happening.”
At the same time, those there on Thursday say there’s still more work to be done and events like this help survivors know they’re not alone.
“There's so much shame attached to sexual violence, and so people don't report because they don't feel anything will happen,” said Pamela Swider, who serves as community leader with Take Back the Night Ann Arbor.
Swider has been involved with Take Back the Night for roughly 15 years. A survivor herself, she says this event is for them.
“Our main focus is always survivors of sexual violence," Swider said. "To celebrate them and lift them up.”
Some students who came say they were also spurred to action by how the university handled sexual assault allegations against late Dr. Robert Anderson. The school recently settled for just shy of $500 million.
“I'm really passionate about standing up for survivors, especially with everything that’s happened at Michigan," student Akhila Mullapudi said. "Just wanted to come out and show my support.”
As these students take the streets to take back the night, they hope their action brings change, while also supporting each other in the process.
"Tonight is all about the survivors and empowering their healing process,” Colyer said.