After being too hesitant to participate as a freshman due to negative backlash received from my peers on campus, I attended my first Take Back the Night march on Wednesday April 15. Too many protests and walks of this nature are nothing short of disruptive and arguably downright disrespectful. Don’t participants have anything better to do? Do they understand that the people in the library they are marching past have homework to finish? That the person they just marched past was just innocently trying to make a phone call when their voice was drowned out by chants?
These complaints exist and are valid to a certain extent, but completely miss the point of the event. The whole concept of Take Back the Night—and why it is always held during Sexual Assault Awareness Week—is to disrupt the status quo, make people uncomfortable and draw attention to something that is almost never discussed.
The image of a stranger jumping girls in the night is an inaccurate depiction of rape—the majority of rapes are committed by people the victim knows. This is why 90 percent of attacks go unreported. Victims feel guilty about reporting because they fear exile from their friend group if it is a mutual friend or place blame on themselves for sending “mixed signals.”
This makes events such as Take Back the Night so much more important. For a couple hours once a year, it gives a voice to people who live in silence after their assault. It’s also a chance for allies like myself to show support for victims in a way that might not be possible on normal days.
I cannot simply say to random people, “Your voice matters. I am here for you.” By participating in this event, I like to feel like I am able to say that to anyone who might know me––that I fully support them in their struggle and hope they know they have someone to confide in.
Events such as Take Back the Night––as well as other similar ones like the march for Black Lives Matter––open a dialogue on campus that might never happen otherwise. Even if it’s through a Yik Yak comment stream, any conversation about this topic is better than the silence it usually faces. Conversations on sexual assault are rare, and when they occur, they can often be unsafe spaces for victims due to victim blaming or skepticism of their accounts.
While it’s easy to dismiss these events as “annoying” or “unnecessary,” students would do well to really look at the social ramifications of having supportive movements like this on campus. If just one person on campus feels safer as a result of this event or any like it, it might be slightly more important than you having perfect peace and quiet while you study. And if it makes you feel uncomfortable, good.