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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Feminists, supporters ‘take back the night’

Published: April 23, 2010
Section: Front Page

Feminist March: The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and the Committee on Rape Education walked through campus Thursday as a protest of attacks on women.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

Take Back the Night, an annual march through the Brandeis campus, took place Thursday against worldwide rape. This year the Committee on Rape Education (CORE), which usually organizes the walk, this year worked in conjunction with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA).

The main goal of the march is to make it safe for women to be out during the night without having to feel discomfort and anxiety.

“There is a fear that, as women in society, we have to deal with every day, and every night, that keeps us from going out,” FMLA President Leah Hartman ’12 said. “I think a big goal is to address this fear.”

“It’s a vigil march,” CORE President Alex Turner ’11 said of the march which met at Rabb steps at 7 p.m. and walked to each quad ending at the Shapiro Campus Center.

The organizers distributed candles and chanting guides for the walk.

At the quad stops, student marchers were encouraged to share their own stories and spoken word poetry was performed. Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan, a few graduate students from the Women’s Resource Center and others also spoke out for the cause. The Rape Crisis Counseling Hotline gave the organizers a piece to read, in which all the stories were anonymous.

“Everyone is invited to speak, whether they have something prepared or they prefer to talk extemporaneously,” Jon Sussman ’12 a member of FMLA said.

This event is more than a fight for a safe public space in the future.

“We’re also empowering people to speak out about their own experiences,” Hartman said.

The march sought to provide a safe atmosphere for the survivors of sexual assault, and other people affected by this phenomenon, to share their stories and feel the support of the Brandeis community.

“Rallies such as these are about more than raising awareness,” Sussman explained, “they provide empowerment. They provide a crucial space for survivors and others affected by rape and sexual assault to come together, to let our community know that there are survivors among us and that we stand with them.”

“I think it’s important to educate people on the resources available to them on campus,” Turner said. “I would hope that the people who come feel that this is a safe space to talk.”

Take Back the Night is an international phenomenon. The first rally was in Brussels, Belgium, when the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women occurred there in 1976. After that, walks began to take place all over the world. One was held in Leeds, England, to commemorate the Jack the Ripper killings of the 1800s. They also happened in India, Australia, Canada and the United States, among other countries.

“It’s a march and a movement that’s been around for a long time,” Hartman said. There are old bracelets from the 2005 Brandeis march, and other items from the 2007 march, in the Women’s Resource Center in Shapiro Campus Center.

“Rape and sexual assault and all sorts of relationship abuse are very relevant issues everywhere, but especially on college campuses,” Hartman said. “I know a lot of my friends, from growing up in high school and people here, have had personal experiences with this. It’s very important to address.”

For Sussman, one of the most significant parts of the walk is, “to let out our feelings of frustration and rage that often accompany these issues; it is empowering in itself to just rear back and yell, to give voice to feelings of hurt and disillusionment that testify to the fact that we’re still human.”