Students, administrators and community members shared concerns about sexual abuse even recounting personal experiences with sexual violence during Friday evening’s annual “Take Back the Night.” The event, meant to encourage prevention and raise awareness of sexual assault at the College, was held as part of the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program’s observance of Sexual Assault Awareness month.
Anneliese Sendax ’13 delivered the evening’s solemn keynote speech, in which she challenged observers to reconcile what she sees as the “two Dartmouths” of day and night.
“We will be able to build a community in which no voice, no matter how quiet, is silenced,” she said.
Following the address, a crowd of approximately 70 people, including College President Jim Yong Kim, gathered in front of the Hopkins Center to begin a protest march across the campus, in conjunction with marches held on college and university campuses across the nation.
Holding vivid signs with slogans such as “Awareness is Sexy” and “Claim our bodies, Claim our rights, Take a stand,” the demonstrators marched past Collis, down Massachusetts Row and along Webster Avenue before circling around Baker-Berry Library and returning to the center of the Green. Along the way, marchers shouted slogans such as “Wherever we go, however we dress, no means no and yes means yes” and “We have the power, we have the right the streets are ours, take back the night.”
At the end of the march, participants gathered in a circle in the center of the Green for a “speak out” in which students affected by sexual abuse came forward and told their stories.
“I am a survivor of sexual assault, but my ex-boyfriend didn’t think so,” one student said at the event. “We broke up because he said it was my fault.”
While some speakers showed stoicism while they spoke, others took measured breaths as they recounted their experiences. Some speakers discussed the ambiguity of the meaning of sexual assault.
“I was in an abusive relationship my freshman year,” one student said. ” I didn’t realize it until the situation was out of control.”
The event sought to raise awareness about sexual abuse’s impact on the Dartmouth community, Elizabeth Hoffman ’13, a Sexual Abuse Peer Advisor and a coordinator for the event, said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
“I firmly believe that if you ask anyone on this campus if they have been assaulted or know someone who has been assaulted, they’ll say yes,” Hoffman said. “If not, people haven’t shared their stories with them,”
Hoffman said there is a general lack of awareness concerning sexual abuse at the College.
“People think of sexual abuse as a women’s issue, but it’s really a human rights issue,” Hoffman said. “Sexual violence creates ripples throughout our community, and we need to be aware of its effects.”
Various spectators interviewed by The Dartmouth said they felt the aim and message of the march was unclear. Anya Gleizer ’14 said she observed the march from the Green but was confused by the demonstration.
“I don’t really know what they’re doing, but they’re cool,” Gleizer said.
Cody Engle-Stone ’13 and Joshua Lee ’13 said they were walking back from Webster Avenue when they passed the march, and that they were unsure of its purpose.
“We thought it was Students Stand with Staff,” Lee said.
Engle-Stone said he sympathized with the group’s message, but that the logistics of the event appeared to be poorly executed.
“I think there are other venues they should be choosing. The message was very confrontational, and a Friday evening is also a very bad time to do this, especially during Parents’ Weekend,” Engle-Stone said. “People have other things on their minds.”
Cyra Kang ’11, a SAPA who attended the event but was not involved in its organization, called the rally a “very influential moment for me.”
“This is the first year I feel like a lot of people came not just SAPAs and [Mentors Against Violence] but people who were just genuinely interested in the issue,” Kang said.
The rally, which had approximately 40 participants in 2010, saw an increase in attendance this year due to students’ increased comfort addressing the topic, according to Kang.
Take Back the Night began with a Welcome Gala at the Hopkins Center, and was followed by an abstract, silent Dartmouth Dance Theater Ensemble performance and a spoken word poetry performance by the Soul Scribes concerning abuse and empowerment. The event also featured a raffle prize draw and a reflection period following the speak out on the Green.
The event was jointly sponsored by the Mentors Against Violence.