The stereotypical image that may come to mind for people who have never seen a Take Back the Night rally is a group of feminists marching in a circle with pickets that say “No means no.” While that is how Take Back the Night (TBTN) may have looked in the 1960s when it started in the United States, it has matured.
Now, having been an annual event at UNC-Greensboro for multiple years, the TBTN rallies include a march around campus as well as a vigil for victims of sexual violence and speeches from individuals who have experienced abuse.
The event, which takes place on Sept. 2 at 7:00 p.m. on the library’s lawn, is organized by the Wellness Center, which partnered with the Dean of Students Office, Alpha Chi Omega, CAB and Wesley-Luther Campus Ministries.
According to Jenn Hamilton — the current coordinator for sexual assault education and prevention at UNCG who is largely involved in events like TBTN — the expected attendance on Wednesday is estimated at 200-300 people, but she acknowledges that a larger crowd is possible.
“There’s been a lot more light on the issue [of sexual assault] in the past year, so maybe that will get more students out,” said Hamilton.
The most emotional part of the night will likely be the student speeches following the march and the vigil. Hamilton explained that students are at first hesitant to share their stories of sexual violence, but eventually so many want to participate that some have to be cut off for time.
However, that may speak to the growing awareness of sexual assault, and Hamilton hopes that the growing awareness will bring a diversity of stories.
“I think it’s always a focus of us [about] how we can be more inclusive, because a lot of prevention programming in the last twenty years has been very heterosexist and cisgendered in nature, and we don’t want that,” said Hamilton.
She went on to say, “We will definitely mention [violence on LGBTQ people], but I think it would be really powerful if we could hear those stories themselves, but it’s all about who feels comfortable coming up and talking.”
While those who are knowledgeable about issues of sexual assault will recognize that, for instance, LGBTQ people are more at risk for sexual violence, the concept of Take Back the Night may not be clear to those unaware of abuse issues by its name alone.
TBTN states on their website that they want to end all forms of sexual and domestic violence, but the “night” aspect of TBTN harkens back to the persistent stranger-danger fears that are reinforced in people’s minds, mostly through the media.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports on their website that 82 percent of sexual assaults were committed by someone the victim considered a “non-stranger.”
When asked about the possible disconnect between the title of TBTN and the purpose of the movement that acknowledges these statistics, Hamilton articulated, “I don’t see the name changing just because it’s a name that people know…but I think it’s not necessarily the title of the event that matters, it’s the content of the event, and as long as we keep the content of the event very centered around…breaking those kinds of myths, then that’s the important thing.”
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