SexEd: Take Back the Night

To the survivors in attendence Wednesday November 30th 2016 we thank you for bestowing on us the privilege of your words and your presence. We stand with you.

Looking at the current state of the world, it can become easy to get wrapped up in negativity and heartbreak. Especially when considering the recent election in relation to sexual assault, toxic masculinity and rape culture. It’s leaving many people feeling isolated and frightened for their friends, their children, themselves and strangers.  

Yet in these moments, events like Take Back The Night become ever more inspiring.On Wednesday November 30th, 2016 Lasell’s own Domestic Violence class, taught by Professor Karin Raye held “Take Back The Night” in DeWitt Hall. With roughly 200 people in attendance, we listened, believed and lent our support to the student survivors who shared their stories.  Countless audience members stood to share their own trauma or to express appreciation as allies.  The love, support, acceptance and sense of connection in the room was palpable.  The crowd was made up of survivors, significant others and allies who identified as students, activists, administrators, athletes, police and professors.  These numbers made it clear sexual and domestic violence affects us all - so many people of different backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations. 

Take Back The Night is an international event dedicated to providing a safe space for survivors of domestic and sexual violence to speak of their experiences. There is no catch, no mandated reporting, phones are turned off and no names or details are spoken outside that room. There is respect that everyone comes from a different experience, that each experience is valid, and while the stories themselves (like the people who share them) are unique, no one has to stand alone. This creates unity among those in attendance, a reminder that everyone is affected by this issue whether they are a survivor, significant other or ally.

Statistically one in four college women will experience domestic violence. A quarter of those women will already have experienced a domestic violence relationship before they even enter college. This is not only a women’s issue. One in seven men will experience domestic violence. It is an issue that affects every gender, sexual orientation and every race across a multitude of cultures. This can make the world a scary place because statistics are the living breathing reality that we cross paths with everyday, whether we are aware of it or not. This is why Take Back the Night is such an important movement. It shatters the stigma faced by survivors by giving them the choice to break the silence.

On, Wednesday night, Lasell created space that sent a strong message that every survivor heals and is empowered differently. To some, it is saying the words out loud that lifts the burden of the past. To others, it is being silent in word but not in thought and being surrounded by those who are supportive. Still others nod from afar to events like this, knowing that the option is there if they want it, even if right now is not the time.

Above all, this night is a reminder that survivors have a choice. The choice to share their experiences or to not. Having that option in itself is empowering, a return of control over something that has not been in their control before.

“Your story is your power”. These words (taken with the permission of their speaker) signify what Take Back The Night represents as a whole. A moment to identify the power that lies within the words we choose to say aloud and the ones we save for ourselves.

They are a gift, a choice, a superpower.