Take Back the Night raises awareness of gender based violence

Photo by Kim Bongard

The Office of Violence and Prevention celebrated Take Back the Night on Thursday, April 18 to bring awareness to gender-based violence and acknowledge victims who have experienced sexual assault.

The coordinator of the Office of Violence Prevention, Marie D. Attis-Springs, provided statistics about sexual assault during her opening remarks in the Alumni Lounges.

“We believe you because national statistics tell us that every 92 seconds someone experiences an act of sexual violence in our country,” Attis-Springs said. “We believe you because you told us and you come to us. And we believe you because these stats do not lie.”

She said among undergraduate students in the United States, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males experience rape or an act of sexual violence through physical force, coercion or incapacitation. She added that transgender, genderqueer or gender non-conforming students are at higher-risk of being victimized than students who are non-transgender or gender conforming.

The event cultivated a safe space for survivors to share their stories with the students and faculty members in attendance. “I hope you find tonight engaging. We encourage all of you who feel moved to tell your story; this is a safe place, we’re here for you,” Attis-Springs said.

Simaza Sadek-Ishak, Coordinator of the Women Center & LGBTQ Services, also provided history about Take Back the Night and Ramapo College’s Women’s Center.

“Take Back the Night represents the earliest worldwide stand against sexual violence especially violence against women,” Sadek-Ishak said.

Take Back the Night is an international event that honors the experiences of survivors of sexual violence, sexual assault, childhood sexual violence and domestic violence.

The pioneering Take Back the Night events took place during the 1960s in Belgium and England when women were not safe to walk down certain streets alone.

Around the time when Take Back the Night marches were gaining traction in Europe, many protests and rallies broke out denouncing pornography and violence against women in the United States. In 1973, women at the University of Southern Florida dressed in black sheets and held broomsticks while marching through their campus demanding a women’s center.

A year later in 1974, Ramapo College established their own Women’s Center, which aimed to offer support to women in a space that was largely dominated by men. Since then, Sadek-Ishak said Ramapo College’s Women’s Center has grown with resources and programming that explores issues through intersectionality.   

Although Take Back the Night began as a movement, it evolved into a grassroots organization in 2001. Held annually across the world, Take Back the Night marches are intended to be half protest and half vigil in efforts to empower survivors.

Following the survivor’s stories, a group of thirty students and faculty members organized a rallying march past Laurel Hall and through the Village apartments, chanting “Sexist, racist, anti-gay, you can’t take our rights away” and “People unite, take back the night.”

Students held signs that declared such phrases as, “No does not mean convince me” and “Join together, free our lives, we will not be victimized.”

The march concluded in the Grove where students and faculty stood in a circle with candles to commemorate survivors and victims of sexual assault.