Student march ‘takes back the night’
By Kate Farley, The Dartmouth Senior Staff
Published on Thursday, April 23, 2009
Carrying signs dripping with ink and rainwater, about 50 students braved Wednesday night's weather to participate in "Take Back the Night," a march to raise awareness about sexual assault. The march was among several events coordinated by members of the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program as part of Sexual Assault Awareness month.
The group began the "Take Back the Night" rally in front of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, later traveling to the Collis Center, Massachusetts Row and Webster Avenue, before gathering in the center of the Green. Students in the march paused five times to listen to speakers give their perspectives on issues related to sexual assault, stopping inside Collis, on Tuck Drive, in front of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, on the front porch of Beta Alpha Omega fraternity and on the Green.
Student Body President Molly Bode '09 read a letter written by Alexandra Arnold '10, who was unable to attend the march.
Arnold said in the letter that she felt isolated after she was sexually assaulted and found it difficult to talk about the experience. She was eventually motivated to share her experiences to reach out to other victims, she said.
"Ever since I broke my silence, I haven't shut up," she wrote.
The Dartmouth generally does not publish the names of victims of sexual assault, but Arnold gave her permission for her name to be included here.
Megan Fallon, assistant director of the Center for Women and Gender, called for the "sons and brothers" of Dartmouth to take action to prevent sexual assault.
"Stop the rape culture at Dartmouth by speaking up when someone is going upstairs with someone else who is drunk," Fallon said. "This is not cock-blocking, it's rape prevention."
Michelle de Sousa, coordinator of the Sexual Assault Awareness program and the main organizer of the march, stressed the importance of generating a campus dialogue.
"This is about the courageous men and women who take the step through my door to start the healing," de Sousa said, fighting back tears.
De Sousa told The Dartmouth that she was initially concerned that the event would suffer from low turnout because of the rain, but was pleased with the number of students who attended.
"There were more people here than last year when it was sunny," she told the participants.
Tom Richardson '11 said he attended the rally because he is strongly opposed to all forms of violence.
"Violence of any kind has no part on college campuses," he said.
Emmy Bengtson '10, a member of Dartmouth's Mentors Against Violence, said she was happy to see a strong male presence at the march.
"It's great that you can hear the male voices in the chants," she said. "It makes a really strong statement."
This year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month programming featured several new events, de Sousa said. She and others coordinated a dinner and discussion regarding "the silence" about sexual assault in communities of color, and also brought Helen Benedict, a Columbia University professor of journalism, to campus. Benedict spoke on her book about female soldiers in Iraq in a presentation on Wednesday.
As in previous years, students made T-shirts for the Clothesline Project, which seeks to provide a vehicle for people to share their experiences with sexual assault. The shirts, which feature slogans like "It's still rape even if you yell surprise," and "Too many ruined freshman years," are intended to help students affected by violence express their emotions, de Sousa said.
This year's shirts and those from previous years will remain on display in Collis until Friday.
"Take Back the Night" rallies are held internationally. The first event, held in Belgium in 1976, was organized by the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Woman, a global advocacy group for women.
The march was co-sponsored by SAAP, Health Resources, the Center for Women and Gender and the Office of Pluralism and Leadership.