We stopped outside the fraternity house. One girl ran over to the front walk and crouched down about 20 feet from the front door. She tilted her candle and dripped wax on the cement and then melted it into molten whiteness. The rest of us went silent as we watched. She wobbled as she rose up while staring at the small beacon. The flame was flickering. None of us wanted the wind to come up. It was her spot and we wanted her light to shine and not burn out.
We were littering. We were being environmentally unconscientious.
At least two dozen candles were left behind on our route. Each was the ultra-personal made public. The revelation that someone had been sexually assaulted in the locus of that space. We were GPS-locating the epicenters of sexual violence and then tagging each with fire.
Within five minutes of our passing, most candles were gone. Pulled up, stamped out, or crushed. Temporary relief. For whom? The perpetrator or the bystander?
Maybe more satisfactory is when the residence hall windows peel open and out chuck eggs, French fries, bottles, cans, and other handy, disposable goods. I marvel at the hostility. Sometimes the smarmy, slurred hollers demand that we show our boobs or booty. I pretend its Mardi Gras. But without the purple-green beads.
If you put yourself out there, you have to expect to be heckled. You can make it a game of toddle's counting and keep track of the number of times you get call the "c" word, the "b" word, or the perennial, "slut." To reclaim or not reclaim these unctuous women words?
If you put yourself directly in the line of fire, you have to expect to be seared? If you put yourself in a red dress, you have to expect to be raped?
Some of you think we are stupid. You think we regretted our choice or put ourselves at risk. Some of us were 12 years old. Some of us missed none on the SAT. Some of us are scientists, engineers, doctors and lawyers. None of us deserved to be taken advantage of, regardless of IQ.
Some of you think we are man-haters. Nearly all of us have brothers, fathers, boyfriends, friends, partners, grandpas and uncles whom we love and adore. We are not all raped by men, either. Nor, are all victims women. The men who march are even less likely to report their abuse.
Some of you think we are pointless. What do we think we are going to change with our march? We are going to change your perception. We are going to tell you that we are mad enough, hurt enough; to show you in a public space. That we are going to be loud enough until you hear us.
Why not join us? What are you afraid of? Appearances? Labels? We are pro-life and pro-choice. We are liberal and conservative. We wear military uniforms and mini-skirts. We are without piercings and we have nose rings. We have purple hair and gray hair and no hair. We are straight, gay, bi; male, female, trans. If sexual violence will ever end, it will be because of all of us. Why not join us?
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Take Back the Night in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about Take Back the Night and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text "loveis" to 77054 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.