Take Back the Night, Take Back the Right

*Written by UCD student, Shannon Thompson

In 1975, Susan Alexander Speeth, a scientist in Philadelphia, was brutally raped and murdered while walking alone on the street. Outrage about her death led to a mass protest, contributing to the collective anger that millions of people felt about the sexual violence seen internationally long, long before Susan Speeth. Tension peaked in 1976 as protesters marched outside of the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in Belgium, and rallies in Germany were held to fight for the right to walk alone, free of fear of harassment and sexual assault. 

Finally in 1978 the first ever Take Back the Night event took place in San Francisco. It offered a place for people to fight violence, raise awareness, and offer support and empowerment for survivors. Although it was previously only directed at women, now communities are recognizing that people of all genders are survivors of sexual assault – assaults that happened in all forms and throughout the day, despite many misconceptions. Furthermore, the TBTN movement now stands to prevent all forms of violence, although sexual assault holds the main focus. TBTN holds rallies, marches, and vigils around the world, showing how sexual assault is a human rights issue, affecting everyone regardless of the identities held by the individual. In fact, members of marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by sexual assault and violence. The movement has had an especially large influence on college campuses where the effect of sexual assault has been particularly painful. A study by the Association of American Universities has shown that 1 in 6 undergraduates and 1 in 14 graduates will experience sexual assault. Here at UC Davis, we present TBTN for students, faculty and staff during April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, in an attempt to raise awareness and support survivors of sexual violence. 

At UC Davis, Take Back the Night has a long history, and it’s evolved significantly from when it first started in 1981. In previous years it was held in the evening on the quad. With modest attendance and live bands as musical entertainment, the main focus was to get people comfortable with the space. Now in the Student Community Center, the event is much more focused on openly bringing these tough conversations out into the light so we can take back the night. 

Take Back the Night makes a difference.

Ø  Sexual assault and violence are often not discussed. It’s deemed as taboo and socially awkward to talk about, but TBTN provides a space for this conversation to happen. It challenges people to be critical of our world that condones this violence. It urges attendees to consider how sexual violence is experienced differently by varying communities. It hopes to end the shame that victims face, end the denial of its existence, and end the violence.

Ø  It offers a place where aspiring allies and upstanders can openly show their support for survivors. It sends the signal that individual survivors are not alone and that they do not have to swallow their rage and stand in silence.

Ø  It strives to create a safe space for survivors to reclaim their experiences. Often survivors can feel a loss of control in their lives after being denied the basic human right to have a say in what happens to their bodies. TBTN offers a space for them to take ownership of their history, and come together with others who have similar experiences. TBTN is invested in empowering survivors and their right to live free of harassment, fear, and violence. 

This year’s event will take place in the Multipurpose Room of the Student Community Center on April 21st, starting at 7:00pm, hosted by the Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education. Attendees are encouraged to participate in the community art project to share their experiences or to show support for survivors in a beautiful and creative way, as well as offer their own reasons for wanting to take back the night and end sexual violence. Part of the room will also be dedicated for tables giving out information about resources in the community and on campus, such as Health Education and Promotion and the Women’s Resources and Research Center who are co-planners for this great event There will also be several V* Stories performances, as well as a keynote address by Chaz Walker-Ashley, the Assistant Director of the LBTQIA Center. CARE hopes to see you there!