Take Back the Night 2020 takes place online
The Justice spoke to the organizers of the event about the history and purpose of TBTN, and the challenges of hosting it virtually.
Student organizers from the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, the Jewish Feminist Association of Brandeis, the Gender and Sexuality Center, the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center and Students Talking About Relationships sponsored the annual Take Back the Night event April 23. The event, which usually occurs towards the end of April, explained organizer Becky Schwartz ’20, took place online after the campus shut down in early March. Initially a way to raise awareness about the dangers women face when walking alone at night, the event “has evolved into a transnational movement … to raise awareness for commonplace campus sexual violence,” co-organizer Alison Hagani ’22 explained in an April 27 email to the Justice.
At Brandeis, the way the event is conducted has changed over the years. Prior to 2015, participants would gather at “the top of the Rabb steps and walk around the campus, stopping at each quad and encouraging anyone who had experienced violence in that location to share their experiences,” Schwartz wrote in an email. Starting in 2016, in an attempt to protect participants’ privacy and respect those who were not ready to partake in the event, participants started to walk around campus and then debrief in a private room instead.
This year, the sponsoring clubs prepared for the possibility that the event would have to take place online, Schwartz explained. Canceling the event was never an option, Schwartz added, especially given its importance to the campus community and “to those impacted by violence.”
Last Thursday evening, PARC posted an introductory video on their Facebook page, along with a list of several campus resources that participants could access if necessary. The video shared some data from the 2019 Brandeis campus climate survey, a follow-up to the 2015 campus climate survey. The survey, which is meant “to better understand students’ attitudes, experiences and opinions of sexual misconduct on our campus,” per the report’s executive summary, found that sexual violence and harrassment affects “an alarming rate of Brandeis students,” and disproportionately affects international students, students of color, as well as trans and non-binary students, which members of the event explained in the video. Thus, one of the goals of this year’s Take Back the Night was to “call upon the entire Brandeis community to commit collectively and intentionally to ending violence in all of its forms,” said Schwartz.
A Zoom link was provided for those who wished to partake in the organized activities, which included mindful breathing, origami and affirmation writing, per PARC’s official Instagram page. Schwartz explained that because support networks typically present on campus were possibly scattered around the globe, this year’s event focused “on emotional well-being rather than encouraging the revisiting of trauma.” Self-preservation was prioritized above anything else, with organizers often reminding participants to check in with themselves, reach out for help or take a break at any point.
Despite the challenges that came with holding the event virtually, Hagani explained that doing so memorialized the event “on certain social media outlets, allowing those not comfortable attending in person to attend anonymously and whenever they’re ready.” Schwartz added that “this year, there were two additional layers to the event,” one that served to remind the community “of the heightened risk in this time for those in relationships with partners who are perpetrating abuse,” and another that discussed the concerns expressed during the #stillconcernedstudents2019 protest and the Ford Hall 2015 sit-in, which both presented demands to the administration regarding issues of diversity and inclusion on campus. Both organizers shared that they are hoping to implement components of this year’s event into future iterations.
If you need to talk to someone immediately, please call one of the following resources:
Brandeis Counseling Center 24/7 Hotline: 781-736-3785
PARC 24/7 hotline: 781-736-3370
PARC online anonymous chat: https://www.brandeis.edu/parc/contact/chat.html
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Self-harm Hotline: 800-273-TALK
—Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated when the event is typically held and did not include the Gender and Sexuality Center as a sponsor. The article was changed to include the correct information.