Students rally to eradicate sexual and domestic violence

Take Back the Night is an event held at Ramapo and other colleges every October to empower survivors and victims of sexual and domestic violence. The international movement and non-profit organization was formed in March of 1976 to take a stand against all forms of sexual, relationship, gender and domestic violence and serve as a resource for those affected by it.

Holding Take Back the Night events on college campuses is highly relevant and necessary, as college campuses are one of the most common places to practice rape culture, defined by UN Women as “the social environment that allows violence to be normalized and justified, fueled by the persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality.”

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one of the largest U.S. anti-sexual assault organizations, “Student or not, college-age adults are at high risk for sexual violence.”

They share that 13% of all undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault with violence. 26.4% of females, 6.8% of males and 23.1% of transgender, genderqueer or gender non-conforming individuals aged 18-24 experience rape or sexual assault.

The recent “Ramapo College Annual Security & Fire Safety Report” states that in 2021, there were four counts of rape on-campus in student housing facilities, two counts of fondling, two domestic violence offenses and one dating violence offense. This only highlights the reported cases of violence on-campus, but even nine is too many.

“We are here to reclaim our campus, our residence halls, our classrooms, as safe spaces free from violence,” Marie-Danielle Attis, the coordinator of Ramapo’s Office of Violence Prevention (OVP), said in her opening remarks at Thursday evening’s event.

Sexual assault is the most common crime at colleges, and “college women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than robbed,” according to RAINN. However, a lot of “college-age victims of sexual violence do not report to law enforcement” for a variety of reasons. A large contributor to the lack of reporting is the stigma around dating violence and sexual assault.

“All forms of violence are a form of oppression, and we want to support anyone who has felt oppressed by anyone else in any forms of violence,” Attis said. Take Back the Night’s mission is to hear and support those affected by these crimes.

Students who identified as victims or survivors of any sort of violence were invited to speak before the large, supportive crowd of Roadrunners. Their stories were told with the respect of privacy: what was said in the Alumni Lounges stayed there.

After hearing many brave stories, the crowd made its way outside with posters and banners to partake in the traditional march around campus. The group marched from the Student Center to Laurel Hall, down to the Village and ended up at the Arch, all while chanting several phrases like “Hey hey, ho ho, campus violence has got to go” and “Gay, straight, Black, white, all unite for human rights.”

“Tonight was a powerful night, a time for victims and survivors to reclaim their voice and change the narrative, because the majority of domestic violence awareness movements are centered around heterosexual relationships,” said Alex Woods, the coordinator of the Women’s Center and LGBTQ+ Services. “The experiences of LGBTQ+ folks often get left out of the conversation, but they certainly were not left out tonight.”

A brief vigil took place at the Arch, and it was lit up by small electric candles each participant was given. Student Government Association Vice President Janea Tozer-Murphy closed the ceremony by echoing a recent sentiment shared by Attis about the mission to end sexual violence.

“The goal is not to reduce sexual assault and violence. It is to eradicate it,” she said. “Eradicate. It means to destroy something completely, to put an end to it. You may be thinking, how can I do something as huge as that? The answer is exactly what we’ve seen here tonight: community.”

“It takes all of us as a community to notice that there is something wrong, to decide that sexual assault and violence is a problem. And then to say, you know what, it’s not just a problem,” she continued. “It’s my problem. It’s our problem together. Because the only way that we can hope to truly make change in a way that matters is together.”

Photo courtesy of the Office of Marketing & Communications.