On Thursday, April 24 a group of students gathered in the Pearlstone Atrium for Goucher’s annual Take Back the Night event, where victims of sexual assault spoke about their experiences to others. Events like the one at Goucher take place all over the country, many at college campuses, and each does the event differently. The event typically includes a march and an opportunity for victims to speak out.
Goucher College has a long history with the event, as it has been a tradition at the school for about 20 years. Professor Rick Pringle organized Goucher’s first Take Back the Night in the 1990s along with the help of one of the clubs at the time – the Women’s Interest Group. He has helped organize the event since, and this year was assisted by a group of students including Jessica Hallstrom ‘14, Dana Ehrentreu ‘16 and Sofia Robinson ‘17. Two of Goucher’s clubs, Femco and PRISM, were also involved in the promotion of the event.
The first Take Back the Night occurred in the 1970s, and originally the marches and speakouts excluded men, as the events were meant as a “safe space” for women. Now, Take Back the Night can be attended by anybody regardless of his or her gender, sexual orientation, or whether or not he or she has been assaulted. In 2001, a group of women founded the Take Back the Night Foundation so that they could support marches, rallies, vigils and speakouts throughout the United States.
The event began with the opportunity to make consent t-shirts and was preceded by a short speech from Angeles Evans who works for Turnaround Inc., which helps victims of domestic assault, sexual abuse and human trafficking. Turnaround Inc. is also the only organization that helps these individuals directly, and all the services are free. Evans runs several different programs within the company.
There was a short self-defense seminar intended to teach the attendants how to escape somebody who is trying to assault them. There were three different “grabs” that the students learned to get out of. The night ended with several anonymous students telling their own stories.
Students who wanted to speak went to the Geen Room, just above the Pearlstone Atrium where the windows were covered, so they could share their stories anonymously. Students who stayed to listen were told that they could leave at any time if the stories became too intense or upsetting.
In between the stories, music was played through the loudspeakers. Students were also given flyers with advice on how to care for themselves after the event ended. Chaplain Cynthia Terry, Health and Wellness Coordinator Roshelle Kades, and several peer listeners attended the event in case anybody needed support. Since the students who shared their stories did so anonymously, and because of the nature of their stories, no information will be shared here.
“We wanted to create an event that was informative to the general community and empowering for survivors. The general goal of Take Back the Night is to give information to the community but for me the true goal is to give survivors the space to share their stories,” Hallstrom said. This was her second year planning the event but the first leading the committee. Kades assisted the committee.
Though the event started late, and ran late, it appeared to have achieved its intended goal and the event committee is hopeful it will become a larger event next year.