‘Take Back the Night’: Raising Awareness Against Sexual Assault & Violence

April 11, 2017

By Nayah James

The Peer Educators of Dominican University coordinated a “Take Back the Night” rally followed by a march from 5-6 p.m. outside in the quad on April 6.

Along with Peer Educators, the event was co-sponsored by University Ministry, the Office of Student Involvement, Res Life, Dean of Students, the Study of Women & Gender department, the Criminology & Sociology department, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Wellness Center.

Various events were held throughout campus all week to introduce the week-long awareness campaign. On Monday, April 3, a Flash Mob in the Dining Hall introduced “Take Back the Night” week. Tuesday, the “Take the Consent Pledge” info session and a Live Performance titled, “What Would You Do?” were held and on Wednesday, a movie and discussion about sexual assault.

“Take Back the Night” occurs only in April, for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Take Back the Night” focuses on fighting against sexual violence and sexual assault all over the country, dating back to 1975. In 1975, Microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth was stabbed to death by a stranger a block away from her home in Philadelphia. Her death inspired the organization’s events.

Dominican has coordinated this event for the past 5 years and plans to continue it for the years to come.

About 50 participants, supporters and victims of sexual assault, listened to stories and poems about sexual assault experiences.

Miriam DeLaTorre opened the event explaining that sexual assault and violence occurs highly among women and trans-women in society. DeLaTorre requested the crowd engage in a moment of silence, then chant: “No more fear. No more violence. No more silence.”

Chief Diversity Officer, Sheila Radford-Hill ensured that she aims to make Dominican’s campus an open and safe environment, speaking about intersectionality and violence against women. She requested that everyone in crowd hug the person next to them.

“We want a campus free of threats, harassment, sexual coercion, relationship violence, sexual violence and sexual assault,” Radford-Hill said. “When sexual violence and assault happens, we have to protect each other. Our Black and Brown women are vulnerable and missing, we need to stand up for them.”

 DeLaTorre passed out cutouts with the hashtag “SayHerName,” containing the names of the Black and Brown women that have recently gone missing or have been murdered. The crowd randomly recited names from the list aloud.

Assistant Spanish Professor, Lisa Petrov spoke about how Dominican can better combating victim-blaming. “Speak out if you hear or see something,” Petrov said. “Take rape victims who are friends, seriously. Think critically about media messages because we live in a ‘rape culture’ society. Hold accusers accountable. Don’t assume consent because someone didn’t say “No”. It is important that we watch out for ourselves as well as others.”

Junior Anissa Vega, a sexual assault victim, revealed her struggle. “I was not vocal about what happened to me and because of that I was drinking and smoking”, Vega said. “For me, surrounding myself with the people I love and love to do things with really helped.”

Vega also stressed the importance of speaking out. Vega said: “We have to talk about it, it is important to tell someone else because you can really save someone’s life. You have the choice to educate others…you have to show other people support and be an ally. If you don’t decide to share, please know that there are resources here on campus.”

After the rally came to an end, the march occurred. The march started around 6 p.m., beginning on the third floor of the Rebecca Crown Library in Lewis Hall. The crowd marched silently down the stairs of the library and then to the Cyber Café where they chanted “take back the night!” as they walked to the outside of Parmer Hall.