By CULLAN STAACK/Montana State News
One out of three women and one out of every six men have been beaten, forced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime by someone they know or are in a relationship with, according to Montana State University’s website. Less than 50 percent of assaults are ever reported to the police, leading the organizers of Bozeman’s “Take Back the Night” event and rally to try and make a change.
“Take Back the Night” is an international event and non-profit organization with the mission of ending sexual, relationship and domestic violence in all forms and for all genders. Hundreds of events are held in over 30 countries annually. Events often include marches, rallies and vigils intended as a protest and direct action against rape and other forms of domestic violence.
The popular title of “Take Back the Night” was used as the title of a 1977 memorial read by Anne Pride, a National Organization for Women (NOW) activist and publisher, at an anti-violence rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Thousands of colleges, universities, women’s centers, and rape crisis centers have sponsored these events all over the country, including Bozeman and MSU. MSU held the “Take Back the Night Rally” on Thursday, April 6, with help from the MSU VOICE Center, Students Against Sexual Assault, Men Stopping Rape, Sexual Assault Counseling Center, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Help Center, and Chicks with Sticks. The university conducted all events for the free rally, and the community was encouraged to attend.
The first “Take Back the Night” event worldwide began in England in 1877 as a women-only protest against the violence and fear women encountered daily walking the streets at night. The first march in the United States was held in San Francisco in 1978 to protest violence against women and pornography. Since then, “Take Back the Night” events have spread across all corners of the nation, taking on many forms as the issue evolves and political climates change throughout the years.
Historically, women have faced great anxiety of walking alone at night, leading to the primary reason why “Take Back the Night” began. Although almost 90 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, according to the organization’s website, “Take Back the Night March” has presently become an important opportunity to support survivors in specific communities and to bring awareness to a troubling trend in sexual violence.
It’s common knowledge that sexual assault has been an issue on college campuses across the country for years now, and MSU’s rally on Thursday night and the turnout for the rally showed how much people and students want to make sure that the right steps are being taken to help and protect sexual assault victims and women in general.
“Just knowing that people care about it and listen and care as much as we do is really great to see,” said Students Against Sexual Assault member Kaitlin Torgenson. The goal of the organization and march is clear: to demand an end to sexual violence and provide those who have been impacted by violence a chance to speak out and heal.
Thursday’s events included a survivor speak out, a rally in front of Montana Hall on the MSU campus and a march from Montana Hall to downtown Bozeman.
“We recognize that this does happen and this is a big problem and here are your resources, we want to help you,” said Josie Jolly, another Students Against Sexual Assault member. The successful rally ended as participants lit candles and marched towards downtown holding their anti-sexual-assault signs proud and high for all to see.
Although “Take Back the Night” has become an immensely popular and productive organization, it is not immune to controversy and debate. Issues such as some marches refusing to allow men, even male victims of sexual assault, to be involved under the claim of creating a “safe space” for women, have lead to critics voicing the need to “take back the night” for all men, not just the minority who are perpetrators of sexual violence.
Additionally, the lack of focus on date rape, child sexual abuse, parental incest and other such forms of victimization has attracted criticism from a broad group of people. The argument for inclusion of all forms of sexual victimization stems from accusations that the organization refers to sexual assault in the open by strangers as being somehow inherently morally different to other types of assault.
Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and domestic violence are often labeled “crimes of silence” because of low reporting rates and social discomfort with their public discussion. In conjunction with the great work from “Take Back the Night” events and rallies, it is critically important to show victims that society deeply cares about their reintroduction into normal life and further steps taken to eliminate the threat of assault of any kind in public areas at the least. As with all societal issues, all we can do is continue to make a cause of it and publicize the march against assault, as with “Take Back the Night”, as much as we possibly can.
“We need cultural awareness and we need a whole cultural change,” said rally goer Derek Hetherington.
– edited by Chelsea Anderson