Leading more than 50 people on a march through Downtown Binghamton on Friday night, the Women’s Student Union (WSU) held their seventh-annual “Take Back the Night” rally at Atomic Tom’s.

“Take Back the Night,” an international rally held annually, is also the name of a national nonprofit organization that aims to spread awareness about sexual assault and violence on a global scale. Every year, WSU hosts a “Take Back the Night” rally in Downtown Binghamton consisting of guest speakers and a “survivor speakout,” allowing anyone to share their experience with sexual violence or assault in a safe space.

Erica Prush, president of WSU and a senior at Binghamton University majoring in English, wrote in an email that the WSU had been preparing for the event for months.

“We planned ahead for months and set up a week of events leading up to the event, including a general body meeting on Monday, poster making on Tuesday, volunteering with Family Planning on Wednesday and lining the halls of the Union on Thursday,” Prush wrote. “We booked Atomic Tom’s last month to host the survivor speakout.”

Three guest speakers from local organizations — Rise, Family Planning of the Southern Tier and the Crime Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) — addressed the crowd, providing information about the goals of their different organizations and insight into the overall ambition of Take Back the Night.

Rebecca Staudt, manager of advocacy services at Rise, a local nonprofit organization that works to aid those affected by domestic violence, said the event is not only about discussing the statistics of domestic violence and sexual assault that occurs throughout communities, but also about starting a dialogue on how to empower women.

“I could list the statistics about all of the violence that occurs in our nation, in our community, in the state, in our county, everywhere,” Staudt said. “But you guys are all here because you know them. You’re alarmed by them and you want to do something about it. So, you don’t need to hear them from me. What we really need to talk about is empowering women and everybody in this community. What the focus needs to be on is the empowerment of women and the recognition that any violence is absolutely unacceptable.”

After attending the rally, Emma Marlowe, a junior double-majoring in sociology and English, said she felt the event deepened her knowledge of domestic violence and sexual assault and helped her understand why activism can be so impactful for communities.

“I really walked away with a new sense of what feminism actually is,” Marlowe said. “Tonight was my first time participating in any kind of activism, and I think it may have flipped a switch.”

Prush said the efforts of the rally tie to WSU’s efforts to promote awareness surrounding women’s issues at Binghamton University.

“WSU is a strong community of intersectional feminists and will continue to be,” Prush said. “As a senior, I’ve seen the club grow bigger, more involved and more intersectional for years. I know the e-board next year will continue to lead the club down that path. We will continue organizing, raising awareness around rape culture and holding the administration and our peers accountable.”