On Wednesday, April 11, on the steps of Green Hall in the pouring rain, approximately 40-50 students of the College gathered to “Take Back the Night.” Sponsored by the Women’s Center, Take Back the Night is an annual event at the College marked by motivational speakers from the greater metropolitan area as well as the College, a candlelit march and inspiring chants.
Take Back the Night’s tagline, “Support Sexual Assault Survivors,” describes what the event is about. In 1976, the first “Reclaim the Night” was held in Belgium by women who attended the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women and was characterized by their candlelit march.
The name Take Back the Night derives from a memorial by Anne Pride in 1977 at an anti-violence march in Pittsburgh. Today, the event is known by either of the two aforementioned titles. The event became a tradition at the College a little over 15 years ago.
This year’s speakers included Susan Adams from Womanspace, a local women’s shelter; an alumna of the College who only identified herself as Sharon and is involved with Philly’s Pissed, a small group based in Philadelphia that focuses on supporting sexual assault survivors; and Kait Boyle, a senior women’s and gender studies major at the College.
Both Adams and Sharon spoke on the importance of carrying on the tradition of Take Back the Night, while Boyle read some of her own poetry. The overall focus this year was a point that is not often brought to light: All people, regardless of gender, can be afflicted by sexual assault. It is not solely a crime against women.
“I think at this point, the most important thing people should know is that sexual assault affects everyone – regardless of gender, race, class, sexuality, and that it happens more frequently than one may think,” Christi Downey, senior women’s and gender studies major, said when asked about the importance of Take Back the Night.
Perhaps this is why the College opens the event to all genders. In many places around the world, only women are permitted to attend.
This year’s turnout was described as “disappointing” by some of the students in attendance and is most likely attributed to the fact that weather conditions for the night included intense sleet and wind. Another likely factor was Alpha Psi Omega’s production of “Marx in Soho.”
“At the previous two Take Back the Nights I’ve attended there was a much larger group, but the weather this year was rainy and cold so it probably deterred some of the people that would normally come,” Downey said. “But despite all of that, there was a decent group of us and we definitely made our voices heard marching around campus.”
“The march made me feel empowered as a woman and proud of the progress that has been made,” Nora Wentworth, sophomore psychology major, said.
“I think that the overall response from (passersby) is a positive one. Most of the time people have no idea why we’re out there marching, and even after it’s explained many of them still go on not fully understanding. But at the very least it brings the issue to a conscious level,” Blakeley Decktor, senior women’s and gender studies and international studies major, said.
According to organizers, Take Back the Night’s importance is vital to the rights of sexual assault survivors around the globe.
Decktor said, “I think there are several very important things about Take Back the Night, but they all revolve around uncovering the secrecy that is constructed around sexual assault.
“The reality is that sexual assault occurs every day in all parts of the world to all types of people. Take Back the Night is a forum for survivors to let go of the guilt and shame that comes from bearing the burden of sexual assault alone.”