Posted on: April 9, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Niki Kowal

More than 30 people brave a cold wind to march around the Moraine campus in the Take Back the Night rally.

By Thalia Rivera, Features Editor

For Tammy Tennant, the night she wants to take back is a blur. 

“I was groomed from the start,” Tennant told the roomful of people gathered for the Take Back the Night rally and walk at Moraine Valley on Wednesday.

The rally aimed to bring awareness to measures that people can take to break the silence that surrounds sexual assault.

“I was a powerless, vulnerable child without a father,” Tennant said, stopping for a moment and then finding her voice again.

The night that Tennant wishes to take back occurred when she was 14. Due to precarious circumstances, she was under the impression that the man that took advantage of her had always cared about her. 

Tennant’s mother walked in the room while she was being molested. Tennant ran to her room, in tears, as her mom yelled at the man, calling him a pig. “You don’t understand,” the man told her mother. “We love each other.”

Photo by Niki Kowal
MV speech team member Lydia Garcia speaks on sexual assault in the military.

“You’re going to jail,” her mom retorted.

Tennant didn’t want him to go to jail and die in prison. The next morning, she snuck out of her room and met him in the kitchen. She asked her mother if they could go to McDonald’s. Her mother said, “Fine, but don’t let anyone else see you.”

Tennant lied to the police about what happened, and her mother let the abuser stay with them.

Tennant was one of three main speakers at the rally, featured alongside Lydia Garcia, a member of Moraine’s speech team, and Saffiya Shillo, a community outreach advocate for Pillars Community Health. 

Garcia’s speech focused on the brutality and injustices of sexual assault and harassment that those who serve in the military face. 

“When victims report their assaults they are usually dishonorably discharged, while their rapists go on to receive honorable discharges,” Garcia said. “When their tours are completed in an occupation, that is the embodiment of justice for all. But that promise equates to nothing when our troops receive none when they are raped and harassed.”

Garcia urged every member of the crowd to use their voice.

“Every single one of us can help,” she said. “Every single one of us here today has such a powerful voice that speaks volumes. It is time we use it to advocate for those who are forced into this Invisible War.” 

Tennant said being able to share her story like this has been “very therapeutic. I love doing it even though I get nervous.” 

Jokes are supposed to be funny and there is nothing funny about any kind of harassment.”

Take Back the Night event attendee Quincy Gonzales

Once she overcame the nerves, using her voice to reclaim her night felt exhilarating, she said.

“It feels so good to go up there and share bits and pieces of my story,” Tennant said. “I was able to tell all these college students that they need to tell someone and not hold back, no matter the situation. Rape is not just forced, it can be coerced, and it is not their fault.” 

Tennant’s advice to those struggling is for them to tell their stories of abuse: “Do not hold it back. It will help you out and save many years of your life.”

In addition to the speeches, the event featured multiple tables lining the perimeter of the hall, each featuring resources available to the Moraine community to deal with abuse, such as Moraine’s counseling center, Metropolitan Family Services and the Crisis Center for South Suburbia. 

The final part of the night included a walk around campus that attendees could participate in to show their support. Organizers decided to make the walk optional this year due to concerns about the cold. Sharon Brennan, co-chair of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Committee and a member of Moraine’s counseling department, said they didn’t want to “create a dilemma where people can get sick.

“We’re still looking to create a moment for everybody to embrace this experience, to learn from our community organizations that are present, find out what resources are available and have an opportunity to talk and engage with each other.”

Photo by Niki Kowal
Guest speaker Tammy Tennant relives the night she was taken advantage of to raise awareness of sexual violence.

Despite the weather, every person in attendance still chose to participate in the walk.

A resounding chant of “Take back the night!” could be heard from the crowd as they braved the elements. “It’s too windy!” someone exclaimed, yet they still marched forward. 

Participants were given the opportunity to create signs to bring with them as they marched. 

“For my poster, I put ‘Shatter the Silence’ with broken glass at the top and flowers at the bottom,” Dwight D. Eisenhower High School student Jaqueline Cabrera said. “I wanted to say that you can be the difference and someone that makes everyone feel welcome. You can share your story and change other people’s lives.”

Quincy Gonzales, 19, shared the story behind their sign as well.

“It says ‘It’s never just a joke’ with the word ‘Just’ crossed out and ‘Never’ written above it,” Gonzales said. “I feel that is one of the most common excuses when it comes to harassment: ‘It’s just a joke. He was joking. He didn’t mean it. They didn’t mean it’. I feel like it’s prominent in a lot of cultures, especially Mexican culture. Cultures where the stereotype of ‘Be A Man’ is enforced.

“It’s just horrible that that is the excuse that is put out a lot, so I wanted my poster to reflect that it’s not okay and there is no excuse. Jokes are supposed to be funny and there is nothing funny about any kind of harassment.”

Tennant urges those who have or are facing harassment to speak up and use their voices.

“You have a voice,” she said. “Keep telling. Keep sharing, even if the first person doesn’t believe you. Keep telling somebody until they believe you.”

Photos by Niki Kowal

Niki Kowal and Emily Stephens contributed to this report.