Take Back the Night is an event focused on collectively speaking out against — amongst many other social problems — rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, violence against children, and violence against women. Across the country, Take Back the Night rallies are made up of candlelight vigils, empowerment marches, and sexual assault survivor testimonials, as well as other forms of solidarity and protest.
The event’s diverse political origins are reflected in the coalition of Grinnell College organizations that help sponsor it. This year, they included the Feminist Action Coalition, the Stonewall Coalition, and the gender and women’s studies concentration. The organizers planned a week of activities to inform the student body and Grinnell community at large about the realities of sexual assault and violence on and off college campuses. “Take Back the Night Week” was composed of various presentations, such as one sponsored by Domestic Violence Alternatives/ Sexual Assault Center (DVA/ SAC) about intimate partner violence, a talk by sociology professor Betsy Erbaugh on domestic partner violence in the queer community, and a multimedia performance by the nonprofit organization The Long Walk Home, titled “SOARS: Stories Of A Rape Survivor.”
Grinnell students also decorated the Rosenfield Center with life-size human cutouts telling anonymous stories of rape and sexual assault. We also participated in the Clothesline Project, in which white T-shirts were used to write statistics and stories of assault, and then hung from a clothesline for all to see. The Clothesline Project also served as a symbolic gesture to the roots of Take Back the Night in the early feminist movement.
The week culminated with a testimonial circle of students sharing stories of sexual assault and rape with others, followed by a passionate march around campus with chants such as, “Two, four, six, eight: we won’t be raped, we won’t be beat,” and “Mother, daughter, sister, friend, help make the night safe again,” filling the air. The goal of Take Back the Night is to raise awareness about the realities of sexual assault and rape in the world around us, and to let the community know that there are venues and opportunities to be informed and supported when necessary. The energy of Take Back the Night week will hopefully resonate on our campus until next year, when we will again rally and march against fear in hopes of making the night truly safe once again.
Timothy Hederman '10 is a Philosophy major from Staten Island, New York.