Students gather for Take Back the Night

April 13, 2018

Students gathered at the Rabb steps last night for Take Back the Night, an annual march to raise awareness for sexual violence. The students marched from the steps to the Light of Reason, where they gathered for 17 minutes of silence to protest the lack of a survivor advocate on campus.

Take Back the Night consisted of two parts, starting with a march from the Rabb Steps down to the Light of Reason and a reception in the Admissions building, at which student press was not allowed. Lead organizers Kavita Sundram ’20 and Saren McAllister ’18 read opening remarks. They began by introducing Take Back the Night to the 40 students and staff in attendance.

Among those in attendance were Professor Bernadette Brooten (NEJS) and the new Director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention, Sarah Berg. Berg was identified as a resource for students who experienced discomfort at the event, along with the peer advocates who identified themselves at the start of the march.

The organizers described Take Back the Night as trying to “show solidarity with or as survivors” of sexual violence and with the goal of “dismantling rape culture” and “all systems of oppression.” They thanked the Rape Crisis Center (RCC), the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and faculty and administrators including Berg, Vice President for Student Affairs Sheryl Sousa and Assistant Dean of Students Stephanie Grimes.

The organizers also emphasized that Take Back the Night was not exclusive for survivors of sexual violence and stated that the fight against racism at Brandeis, especially in the wake of the firing of basketball coach Brian Meehan, was “connected to this battle.” They discussed the need to remedy “larger structural problems at Brandeis” and described Take Back the Night as a call to action for students and faculty alike in this goal.

The organizers asked attendees to refrain from audio visual recording and any photography throughout the night, stating that “the group’s collective security is our priority” but did emphasize that they “cannot guarantee absolute confidentiality.”

Students began marching with McAllister leading the chants of, “Shatter the silence, stop the violence, ignite the light, take back the night” and “Admins, we’re calling your bluff, what you’re doing ain’t enough!” They continued chanting past the library and Shapiro Campus Center.

At the Light of Reason, organizers congratulated Brandeis for the progress it has made in the past, including the continued efforts of the RCC. They emphasized, however, that Brandeis has a long way to go to properly meet student needs.

Those in attendance held 17 minutes of silence to protest the 34 business days that Brandeis has gone without a survivor advocate, with 30 seconds representing each day. Julia Rickey, who served as the Survivor Advocate, left in August 2017, and Brandeis hired two part-time advocates to fill the role last semester. The university is still searching for a permanent employee to fill the position. During the moment of silence, students, faculty and staff wrote messages on the concrete between the three Light of Reason structures, despite the light rain.

Students wrote messages including, “empower survivors,” “it wasn’t my fault,” “no means no,” “#metoo” and “this rain can’t wash away our pain or our power.” After the moment of silence concluded, McAllister invited the students in attendance to a private group gathering for students in the Admissions building.

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