By Susanna Penfield | Illustration courtesy of the Wellness Resource Center
We are approaching the end of April, and with it, Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to a close. Typically, we culminate this month with the Take Back the Night march and survivor speak out — a time to physically show up and stand in solidarity with survivors, demand an end to sexual violence, and bear witness to stories that are too-often silenced.
In doing so, we take part in a movement that spans beyond campus confines or national boundaries. Take Back the Night is the first worldwide effort to combat sexual violence and violence against women. It originated in the 1970s, when incidents of violence against women started to become increasingly publicized and integrated into public conversation. The march itself traces back to October of 1975 when Philadelphia’s citizens held a public march after microbiologist Susan Alexander Speeth was stabbed to death on the sidewalk near her home after work. In 1976, a tribunal council of women from dozens of countries met in Belgium to discuss unsafe conditions for women. “Take Back the Night” was used as the title of a 1977 memorial read by Anne Pride at an anti-violence rally in Pittsburgh, and also as the title of activist Laura Lederer’s 1980 book analyzing the issue of violence against women.
This night is symbolic. It is an act of resistance and unity, meant to represent the autonomy and resilience of survivors and to demonstrate that together, victims and allies alike are able to push back against cultures of violence and fear. To be part of this movement is both taxing and rewarding, powerful and unforgettable. Because we can’t gather this year, several campus organizations (specifically START and The Wellness Resource Center) have worked to create the framework for a video compilation that can “march” through the rest of our academic year and give us strength during this pandemic. Survivors deserve to be seen and supported, no matter the circumstances, but especially now.
The Take Back the Night video project is a space for all voices to be heard through whatever means they choose to represent themselves. A video allows for the unique opportunity of a march composed not only of bodies and chants, but of photographs, visual art, voice recordings, and written statements. In many ways, this virtual nature increases accessibility, and thus all individuals are encouraged to participate however they see fit.
The project is still accepting submissions. The following prompts can be used to generate your response; as a warning, they do ask you to reflect on sexual violence:
- ● If you would like, introduce your name, pronouns, and where you are sending from.
- ● Why are you participating in Take Back the Night?
- ● What is your message of support to survivors in our community?
- ● What is your personal commitment to ending sexual violence?
All submissions should be sent to Elliott Williams, START co-chair, (firstname.lastname@example.org) and if you would like to submit anonymously, simply send your submission directly to Elliott and indicate that you would like to remain nameless.
You will be able to follow the video’s progress (which will continue to be updated with new submissions) on the START Homepage.
If you feel inspired to share, send your own submission along with the link to the evolving project to five friends and encourage them to do the same. We can still Take Back the Night. Whether united by physical touch or through a laptop screen, solidarity exists in some of the most uncertain times, and in joining forces we can continue to make sexual violence visible in our communities, create a culture that discourages its continuation, and support people who have been affected.