Here’s to the nights…

April 29, 2011

Take Back the Night was created more than 30 years ago as a vigil and march to protest sexual assault and the danger people often feel walking alone at night. As it grew in popularity, it became an annual part of college tradition, including at Brandeis.

After gathering at Rabb steps, participants are given candles and walk as a group throughout campus. At each quad, they stop and people can share their experiences and thoughts. They call out to others in the quad, encouraging them to join. Several do, so the group generally gets larger as it progresses.

Although the vigil was originally scheduled for last Thursday, poor weather and scheduling conflicts forced Students Talking About Relationships (S.T.A.R.), the group organizing it this year, to reschedule for next Tuesday, May 3. The delay will also give S.T.A.R. more time to advertise for the event to get as many supporters as possible.

“[Take Back the Night] is a space where survivors and victims of sexual assault feel comfortable with people they know are allies,” Caitlin Fay ’12 said. “Everyone’s able to share stories and they realize a lot about each other.”

Until recently, a group called the Committee on Rape Education (CORE) planned it. CORE was started in order to inform the Brandeis community about sexual assault and rape, and they became one of many college groups to speak out against sexual violence.

Last year, CORE was less active, and one member recruited the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) and the Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS) to help plan the event.

Last year’s event was particularly overwhelming for Fay. “The group really connected and were so comfortable with each other. There was even a group hug at the end,” she said of last year’s event, which began with 15 people and grew to 25 as they walked.

Fay has attended Take Back the Night since her first year at Brandeis and, as one of many S.T.A.R. counselors, she was the main force in planning it this year. “I was really passionate about the cause when I came to Brandeis, and I wanted to be involved,” she said.

Worried that no one would take the planning initiative this year, Fay stepped in.

“I was scared that if no one stepped up, it would dissipate and I didn’t want it to disappear.”

The assaults that Take Back the Night tries to combat are often associated with women and sex but there’s much more to it than that, Fay said. Anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, can be assaulted and it’s usually more about power than sexual release.

“I thought it should be run by a more all-encompassing group, so I got S.T.A.R. involved,” she said. So far, planning has gone well.

In the past, Brandeis’ Take Back the Night has had its ups and downs, ranging from poor turnout to an incident in 2005, when 100 students ended the march in North Quad, only to hear someone blasting the song “Rape Me,” by Nirvana, out of his window. The incident, according to The Hoot archives, led to students unaffiliated with Take Back the Night to put up flyers around campus with the boy’s name, room number and picture from “thefacebook.com,” as well as a declaration that he “thinks rape is funny.”

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