If you were given the chance to stand up to sexual assault, would you? What if you could support survivors by listening to their stories? Would you be brave enough to march against sexual violence? I will speak up this April against sexual assault, and you should too. All you have to do is Take Back the Night.
Take Back the Night is an annual event held on college campuses and communities nationwide. The event includes rallies, marches, and vigils, where survivors and supporters alike unite to protest against sexual violence. One of the first rallies was held in 1975 in Philadelphia, after a female scientist was murdered while walking home alone. The events quickly spread across the nation and the world to protest gender-based violence, and in 1999 Take Back the Night became an official charitable foundation thanks to the efforts of Katie Koestner. According to the organization's website, their mission is as strong today as it was in 1975: "The Take Back The Night Foundation seeks to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence. We serve to create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives."
Take Back the Night is different from other feminist protests. For example, it combines reflection and action in the same event. The organization mandates that demonstrations must show support for survivors, and rallies often include a candlelit vigil, a moment of silence, or a safe space where survivors can share their stories. However, the event is also meant to protest against all forms of ongoing sexual violence. Gatherers may wear t-shirts, march throughout the community, or create artwork for public display. This combination of events is particularly powerful because attendees are made aware of what has happened in the past while uniting to make a change for the future.
Importantly, Take Back the Night actively welcomes male survivors and supporters. Unlike events like Slutwalk that focus solely how rape culture affects women, Take Back the Night recognizes that sexual violence can happen to anyone. Although the original marches and the foundation was established to prevent violence against women, the organization has since broadened its mission statement and its goals. In fact, the Take Back the Night rally at my own university is particularly inclusive. Our event recognizes that violence can happen to people of all sexes, genders, and sexual orientations, and male survivors, queer survivors and others whose stories are not always heard have shared their perspectives at past events. Attending the rally is an important way for students to recognize the prevalence of violence in their communities, and to realize that it can happen to anyone.
This will be my third year attending Take Back the Night. I go because as a woman, I am a target of gender-based violence. I go because I am outraged that these senseless acts continue to happen in my campus community. I go because I am personally connected to survivors of sexual violence, and this is one of the best ways I can show my continued support. If your college or community hosts a Take Back the Night rally, I highly encourage you to attend. If you would like to start an organization at your school, you can visit their website and easily establish a chapter. Just think of how much good you could do by dedicating one night to eradicating sexual violence.
I care enough to be there. Do you?