April 25, 2006
A crowd of students gathered on the Cave Patio for the annual rally Take Back the Night, hosted once again this year by the Trinity Women’s Center this past Thursday, April 20. This is the sixth time that Trinity has held a Take Back the Night rally on campus, and it has become a well-known and respected event. This year, students gathered, some wearing shirts that bore the message: Take Back the Night.
This year, Trinity’s Take Back the Night rally was sponsored by the Women’s Center, the Sexual Assault Task Force (SATF), Zeta Omega Eta, the Trinity College Black Women’s Organization, the Sexual Assault Response Team, and the Inter-Greek Council. While each of these college sponsored organizations has a different focus, they combined efforts for the Take Back the Night initiative, and produced last Thursday night’s rally. Hillary Bennett ‘07, the SATF coordinator said, “This year we worked with the Greeks and the IGC to make Take Back the Night officially part of Greek week. In the past there has been tension between the Women’s Center and the Greeks in terms of people looking for a scapegoat and hoping to find it in a Greek organization. But the fact of the matter is the problem of rape and sexual assault is not because of specific Greek organizations, it’s because of individuals who think it’s acceptable and a larger problem of patriarchy and a misogynistic culture.”
Take Back the Night is an internationally organized rally and march which thousands of communities participate in every year. Also known as “Reclaim the Night,” the idea began in Belgium in 1976, during the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, when women marched through the city with lit candles. While this first Take Back the Night march was focused on protesting violence towards women, the rallies have expanded to become a protest against violence to children and families as well.
Other early Take Back the Night rallies and marches were held by the women of West Germany in 1977, who sought the “right to move freely in their communities at day and night without harassment and sexual assault.” A great number of Take Back the Night marches and rallies were held later that year in communities throughout England in response to the Ripper Murders, the brutal killings of a number of young women in Leeds. San Francisco was the home of the first American Take Back the Night rally and march, in which three thousand women protesting violence in the media and in pornography marched through the red-light district of the city holding up effigies, signs, and candles.
Many of the Take Back the Night rallies and marches are intentionally women-only events, to signify the goal of women being able to walk through the streets at night with no threat of violence, harassment, or even fear. Now, the rallies and marches are organized not only to protest acts of violence towards women, but to serve as a precaution against future acts of violence by raising community awareness and vigilance. Take Back the Night has become a rally against fear as well as violence, and in addition to including protests against violence to all people, Take Back the Night marches and rallies also protest domestic violence and sexual abuse.
College campuses have become a common location for Take Back tiie Night marches and rallies in recent years, since the march spread out of the major cities and metropolitan areas. The rallies usually involve speakers or performers, and are followed by a march with candles to shine through the dark night of violence to women.
The goal of the Trinity version of Take Back the Night is, as advertised by posters and flyers all over the campus, “say ho to sexual violence on campus!” This year, student performer Anne Louise Marquis sang Ani DiFranco’s song “Gratitude,” and Sandra Lawson ended the evening with “Stand by Me,” while Lucas Dunlap played guitar for both songs during the Take Back the Night rally, and the crowd gathered on the Cave Patio was substantial. Kelly Howard and Keisha John read poems by Maya Angelou, while James Murphy ’08 talked about what guys’ responsibilities are in terms of taking back the night. Senior Sarah Carter talked about female empowerment, and Christ Giacolone talked about SART and what people can do in terms of alcohol responsibility.
The student response was very positive and, as intended, proactive. “The SART and the Women’s Center did a great job raising awareness and bringing problems that are prevalent across college campuses to light,” said Lauren Murray ’08. While Trinity is not West Germany, or the red-light district of San Francisco, or the site of brutal murders that target women, it is a campus that knows the fear of the night, and one that is thankfully trying to target this fear with a peaceful Take Back the Night rally and march, in the hopes of banishing not only the fear, but the violence that causes it.