Students come together at Take Back the Night
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 08:10
Students gathered last night in Goddard Chapel for Take Back the Night, an annual event that aims to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence.
The event, which was moved from the Tisch Library roof due to the possibility of rain, was hosted by Tufts Panhellenic Council (PhC), Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) and Tufts Health Service, as well as other student organizations.
Speakers and student performers took turns on stage, sharing personal stories and experiences with the audience in hopes of sparking a dialogue. The chapel was open to all members of the Tufts community.
Two members of Tufts Action for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), who wish to remain anonymous, opened the event with a discussion of rape culture and consent.
“We’re here tonight to tell you all a bit about the concept of rape culture, and how it effects our campus, as well as explain how we all can help to change the way our society views issues of sexual assault,” one member said.
The two next defined rape culture for the audience, explaining that it is a societal stance that tolerates, excuses or even promotes rape. They explained that rape culture persists partly because students unthinkingly adopt messages from the media and mimic media characters in their own actions.
Next, the members introduced statistics regarding rape on American college campuses. One in six women, as well as one in 33 men, experience attempted sexual assault in their lifetimes, they said. Females between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to experience assault than any other demographic, and 90 percent of college-age victims know their assailants.
To combat these issues, members of ASAP are currently in the process of working with Tufts administration to reform the university’s sexual assault policies and create more readily available resources for students, they said.
The event continued with a section titled “Tufts Testimonials,” a series of personal stories read aloud by six ASAP members. The identities of the writers were kept anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the subject.
PhC Director of Community Outreach Carolyn Kwon explained that the stories were meant to educate students.
“By sharing these stories, we hope the message clearly resonates with you all that these events are real, and happen to people we all know and love,” she said.
The testimonials were followed by a brief performance from S-Factor, an all-male a cappella group.
The stage was then turned over to Sarah and Julie, two survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence who now work on the Survivor Speakers Bureau at BARCC. The women, who declined to share their last names to protect their identities, each shared their personal experiences and emotional journeys before answering individual questions from the audience.
“It’s everyone’s problem,” Sarah, a Tufts alumna who has been speaking out about the issue since 2001, said. “All of us, any and every one of you, [are] in a position to help.”
The women commended the Tufts community on its efforts, agreeing that colleges have made “leaps and bounds” in dealing with rape culture over the past 10 years. This was evidenced by the number of male students in the audience and the ongoing discussions aimed at fostering institutional change, they said.
Each speaker implored victims to seek help. The women listed resources at Tufts, as well as hospital-based programs in Boston, specializing in mental and physical recovery from rape.
Julie reminded students that they also have a “built-in support system” through the school, family and friends.
Take Back The Night ended with a moment of silence, as participants held up candles and honored survivors by saying their first names aloud.
A student performer closed the event with a guitar-accompanied performance of Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel” (1998) and Coldplay’s “Fix You” (2005).
“In spite of this dark issue, there is hope,” the speakers concluded.