Students march to ‘take back the night’
Students marched from the Rabb Steps to the Light of Reason in a show of solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.
Members of the Brandeis community gathered at the bottom of the Rabb Steps on Thursday to raise awareness of sexual violence on campus in the annual Take Back the Night march. Over 60 members of the Brandeis community marched through the center of campus to the Light of Reason as organizers called out statistics from the 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct.
“The work of dismantling rape culture and ending sexual violence is fundamentally tied to the dismantling of racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and all systems of oppression,” Becky Schwartz ’20, one of the event’s organizers, told the march’s participants at the introduction of the event. All quotes attributed to those who spoke at the march are from a copy of the remarks that organizers provided to the Justice. The march was held “to critically reflect on sexual violence, empower one another, and show solidarity with, or as, survivors,” Schwartz said.
Before the march started, TBTN organizer Chila Haber ’19 announced that the press would not photograph or record the event, and asked participants to refrain from photographing and recording the event themselves without explicit permission from the participants themselves to respect the identities of the people who attended.
Take Back the Night originated in the 1960s when women across the globe protested sexual violence as part of the feminist movement. The event has provided survivors a “powerful space … to share their stories and reclaim areas on campus where they experienced harm,” Haber said.
Like last year, the organizers marched through the center of campus but did not stop at individual dorms, respecting the students who did not want to participate. “As we gather and march tonight, we walk in solidarity with survivors and, for many of us, as survivors,” Haber told the crowd. They finished their march at the Light of Reason, where participants chanted, “Shatter the silence, stop the violence. Ignite the light, take back the night.”
There, Schwartz repeated a quote from former University President Frederick Lawrence, who said, “We’re not here to protect you, we’re here to prepare you for the real world” to a group of students who protested sexual violence on campus five years ago. Schwartz said Lawrence failed to recognize “that sexual violence does not HAVE to happen everywhere,” and that this kind of rhetoric “actively harms survivors and places sexual violence services and prevention on the university’s back-burner.”
34 percent of undergraduate and graduate students responded to the 2015 Campus Climate Survey. Of those, 22 percent of undergraduate women had “been sexually assaulted, including inappropriate sexual touching, fondling, grabbing and groping,” per the survey results. Of those who reported experiencing sexual assault, 45 percent of students did not report or share their experiences with anyone.
During the “Collective Reflection” portion of the event, participants were encouraged to write on the ground of the Light of Reason with chalk. They left messages such as “Allyship is a process, not an action,” “I am more than my story” and “Your voice matters.”
After the public portion of the event, attendees moved to the Shapiro Admissions Center, where they shared stories and experiences in a confidential space mediated by Peer Advocacy and Resource Center Director Sarah Berg. Faculty, staff and the press were not permitted.
TBTN was organized by PARC, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Jewish Feminist Association at Brandeis and Students Talking About Relationships, with help from Berg, Assistant Dean of Students Stephanie Grimes, Public Safety Officer Bette Reilly and the Student Union, according to the remarks provided.
Schwartz pointed out the Peer Advocates from PARC who wore glow sticks around their necks to identify themselves as resources for anyone who would need them. “Healing takes many forms. Each person knows themselves, and has the right to determine what feels most supportive to them,” Schwartz reminded participants.
“Take Back the Night is a call for administrators to shift away from and transform their current practices which minimize and disappear the prevalence of sexual violence at this school,” Haber said. “[It] is a call to the entire Brandeis community, to commit collectively and intentionally to ending violence in all its forms.”
This year, a new Campus Climate Survey was conducted from March 5 to 22, and sent out to all Brandeis undergraduate and graduate students. The anonymous survey will “gather students’ feedback regarding issues of sexual and relationship violence in our campus community,” per a March 4 email to the Brandeis community from University Provost Lisa Lynch.
Over the summer, Lynch will work with Berg and other administrators in the department of Student Affairs to analyze the results of the survey and “discuss the findings and implications for our community,” Lynch told the Justice in an April 12 email. In addition, a website will be set up with the results of the findings, and forums will be held to discuss the survey’s findings. A number of other universities that are part of the Association of American Universities with Brandeis are also replicating this campus climate survey, and Brandeis will be able to compare its findings with them, according to Lynch.