Event Empowers Survivors of Sexual Violence to 'Take Back the Night'

By KRYSTIN BRUNO
On April 13, 2016

Photo by Hope Patti

The Women’s Center sponsored Take Back the Night on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Lounges. Take Back the Night is an annual event held at colleges to sustain sexual violence awareness and support its survivors. In the past, it has been held at Ramapo in October during Violence Awareness Week, but this semester it was held during April in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The event has traditionally been comprised of two parts: a speak-out and a campus-wide march immediately following.

Sophomore Grace Maute began the event by setting the ground rules of the night. Confidentiality in the room was stressed due to the sensitive nature of the topic. Maute went on to welcome survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence to the front of the room to speak about their personal experiences.

“Take Back the Night is an international event and nonprofit foundation that seeks to end sexual violence. Hundreds of events are held in over 30 countries annually,” Maute said.

The Take Back the Night Foundation was founded following years of marches, speak-outs and other demonstrations relating to sexual violence. One of the first protests occurred in 1973 in response to the “serial murders of women of color in Los Angeles,” according to the organization’s website.

Brooke Jamison, graduate assistant for the Women’s Center, further explained the importance of the event.

“Tonight we come together to take back the night. Take Back the Night is about reclamation, support, breaking silence and busting myths. We are here to reclaim our campus, our residence halls and our classrooms,” Jamison said.

In all, 11 speakers bravely took the podium and spoke out about the effects that the assaults have had on their lives. Each speaker also showed their support and concern for any survivor of sexual violence.

“Tonight we must stand together in solidarity to support each other. It’s on us to remember that when we stand together we can make a greater impact,” said Jamison.

Speakers were able to tell their stories with a time limit of about five minutes. Once a speaker was finished and two minutes of silence had passed, the event was concluded and the march around campus began.

HealingSPACE, Bergen County’s sexual violence resource center, joined the event to support the survivors and offer assistance to those who have experienced any type of sexual violence. Madeline, the volunteer and outreach coordinator, and Eric, the prevention coordinator, gave information about healingSPACE and its resources and services. Each were also available to provide confidential support to anyone that felt they needed it throughout the night. A member of Ramapo’s Health and Counseling Services was also in attendance to provide confidential support.

“We have 24-hour hotlines that serve survivors, significant others – anybody who has any questions or wants to talk,” Madeline said.

“We work with schools, the community and youth groups to offer education on how to prevent sexual violence and maintain healthy relationships,” Eric added.

Maute commented on the importance and purpose of Take Back the Night, saying, “The event is extremely emotional but is also incredibly empowering for survivors, especially during the second half of the event in which we chant and literally 'take back the night' from perpetrators of violence.”

As students shared their stories, it became clear that Take Back the Night was a moving event for the survivors of sexual violence, as well as for those who came out to support them as they told their stories.

kbruno4@ramapo.edu

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