#take back the night
Take Back The Night 2014: Rape Culture Is Not Some Buzzword
Take Back the Night

Take Back the Night

Take Back the Night is an annual campus event that provides a voice against local domestic violence and sexual assault. Taylor Grasdalen attended Thursday’s march and rally.

It would be entirely too easy to call Take Back the Night “moving,” or to call it by any related synonym, with as much stress as there has been this year on the terminology and language and circumstance surrounding issues of “gender-based misconduct and sexual assault.” Rather, I’ve never seen so much feeling; considering this event in the context of this word instead, this noun, seems to make far more sense than any descriptor. That there was feeling suggests a much greater thing.

And indeed, Take Back the Night really is about a greater thing, something big, something loud and important, a group rallying. This is exactly as it’s been for years’ events past, I know, but considering the modern energy of these issues makes that feeling stronger.

Take Back the Night began just before eight, with announcements and introductions. I was immediately regarded as “press” and could not speak to any other marcher or participant. Our key speaker–Morgaine Gooding-Silverwood (CC’14)–began the actual rally itself, by briefly discussing her own experiences and then for some time considering the University’s place in this cause. Her speech really clarified the purpose I’d hoped for this event: she gave more than just statistics, she gave thorough definition to “rape culture.” It’s any form of non-consent, anything without decision. She brought up Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion, where, too, students are not being heard. As she put it, “Rape culture is not some buzzword.” In a year of Town Halls and constant emails, administrators deflecting blame and students becoming restless, her concentration on language here felt incredibly timely.

She went on to name and address President Bollinger.

Take Back the Night 2013
March against Sexual Violence

March against Sexual Violence

On Thursday night, members of the Columbia/Barnard community gathered at the Barnard gates to participate in Take Back the Night, an annual demonstration against sexual violence. Zachary Hendrickson was humbled to march along as an ally.

“With rage we march, and with strength we speak.”

This year’s rally started off a little later than intended, due to the suspicious package incident yesterday. However, nothing would deter the demonstrators from making their voices heard. The rally kicked off with a moving address by Maya Nair Noonan, BC ’13. Noonan called upon the decision made by Take Back the Night in recent years to be gender inclusive as a way of furthering our understanding of sexual assault – who can be targeted and how they are assaulted. This struck a chord with me. As one of only a handful of cisgendered straight males in attendance, my relative position in society was crystallized. The sad reality is that we live in a world where my female friends are disproportionately the targets of sexual violence, and we are socialized in a way that tells young girls that they should fear the night. But as Noonan pointed out, “Sexual violence is not just another issue.” Too often is the issue of sexual violence pigeon holed as just a feminist issue, a woman’s issue, or a queer issue. No. “Sexual violence threatens everyone,” Noonan declared.

March on…

Take Back All the Nights!

Last night students and members of the community gathered at the Barnard gates to participate in the Take Back the Night march, an annual demonstration against sexual violence. This year, the march took place along a similar route but with one notable difference—organizers decided to make the event completely gender neutral, eliminating the woman-only space at the front of the march in favor of embracing all survivors. Alex Eynon walked along.

The rally began with speeches condemning victim blaming and a permissive attitude towards rape culture. Heben Nigatu, the keynote speaker and a leader in both Radical C.U.N.T.S and the Black Student Organization, didn’t shy away from recent campus controversies. Nigatu condemned Kingsmen posters alluding to sexual abuse of young boys (this even though the Kingsmen co-sponsored the event this year) and sexist jokes at Orgo night; campus media was criticized for perpetuating the status quo through insensitive coverage and what she views as an excessively permissive comment policy that allows triggering and “retraumatising” (cf. Obamanard), most recently, the notice about an attempted sexual assault in Riverside Park.

Nigatu’s point, however, was that in order to create real change in campus culture, students should focus less on “reactive activism,” whether that is creating a Facebook group in response to the Obamanard scandal or spending hours responding to internet misogynists, and more on tangible community initiatives that build something new in order to “take back all the nights.”


Take Back The Night To Be Gender Neutral

After four years of maintaining a women’s only space at the front of its annual march, Take Back The Night (TBTN) has decided to make participation gender-neutral. The Columbia-Barnard group, an anti-sexual violence activist organization, announced yesterday:

As the anti sexual violence movement adapts to include all survivors, we realize that the time is now for TBTN to evolve as well. In order to combat sexual violence, we need to acknowledge that it is an issue that affects people regardless of gender boundaries.

TBTN also announced that unlike previous years, the group will not police camera and cellphone use in order to maintain the participants’ anonymity, but asked that any documentation of the march be done respectfully. The march will take place on April 19th at 8pm.

Full press release after the break

Week of Plenty

Yet another Monday. Fall Break is behind us, and Thanksgiving is still a while away. Seems like a fairly innocuous week, doesn’t it? Little do you know your every minute is latent with meaning. This relatively arbitrary sequence of November days is playing host to not one, but at least five separate “Week of…” events. We have dubbed it the “Week of Weeks,” and we urge you to read on to discover all that you have to see and do during these coming days.

roman calendar

This is probably what your iCal looks like

  1. Occupy Columbia’s Week of Action. Get your fill of peaceful dissent as you join OccupyCU in protesting the Sotheby’s lockout, discussing education and the economy, and marching downtown to support OWS. Bwog will be checking in with the student activists throughout the week.
  2. Yale may have banned their Sex Week, but that spirit is alive and well at Columbia, with the annual Sexhibition Health Fair (featuring penis cookies galore) taking place this Thursday afternoon and a rather sexy workshop scheduled for that evening. Both events are sponsored by Take Back the Night.
  3. On a more serious note, it is also Depression Awareness Week at Barnard. The Furman Counseling Center will be hosting a series of events focused on raising awareness about mood concerns, removing the stigma associated with depression, starting positive conversations about mental health, and boosting wellness.
  4. Students for Education Reform is hosting Education Week, with a slew of talks on the current “education crisis” ranging from whether or not teaching is a legitimate profession to the issues with access to college education. There will also be visits to local schools where you can go tell kids about how much not fun college is.
  5. Last but not least, this week is also Israel Week, presented by Kol Israel at Columbia and Barnard Hillel. Events include an Israeli goods fair, talks on Zionism and the history of Israel, and a colorful party.

Calendaric catastrophe via Wikimedia

Take Back Our Bodies, Take Back the Night

Your unaffiliated with TBTN Bwog Editor Claire Sabel and trusty reporter Alex Jones took part in the march (well, strolled alongside it on the sidewalk, at the request of the organizers.) They were surprised and touched by the levels of engagement and enthusiasm. A summary of their observations follows.

Last night an estimated 800 participants from Columbia, Barnard, and the local community joined together for a two-hour march around campus, demonstrating solidarity against sexual violence. The spirit of the demonstrators was full of empowerment and pride, buoyed by collective whistling and chanting as they walked the streets. The march wove around College Walk, Frat Row, Broadway, Amsterdam and Claremont, marshaled on all sides by student volunteers and supported by a team of auxiliary NYPD officers. Onlookers and observers from apartment buildings cheered on the protesters, by joining in or encouraging them with shouts and waves. It was an impressive and cohesive demonstration of allied opposition to silence about an issue that is pervasive on college campuses around the country, most recently exemplified at Yale. There were significant allusions to recent events at New Haven with the chant: “Yes means yes, no means no!”

Take Back the Night provides an important annual reminder that sexual assaults do happen on campus, and that we are often reluctant and ashamed to talk about them. As a frequent refrain went, “Rape is a felony, even with a CUID.” There were trained councilors accompanying the event at all times should participants feel the need to confide in someone, and there were many displays of affection and mutual support among the crowd, hugging, holding hands, and linking arms. The night culminated in a Speakout, a formidable display of empowerment mutual support. Victims of abuse gathered in the blacked-out gymnasium to share their stories in anonymity. Press were justifiably not allowed to attend this portion of the event.

This year’s march was just as successful as those in the past. Onlookers from the community welcomed their presence, and voiced whole-hearted support of their efforts. “It’s wonderful, I think it’s great that they’re doing this,” an elderly woman told Bwog. She and her husband live on 116th St, and came out watch the march by the Barnard Gates. They had seen posters about Take Back the Night at nearby bus stops and were impressed by the strong turnout. The event is one of the most well-coordinated demonstrations of student activism within the Columbia community, and will continue as such until the prevalent culture of sexual violence is finally met with due justice.

Take Back Tonight

At 8pm this evening, the 23rd annual Take Back the Night rally will begin at the Barnard Gates. Participants will march through the streets of Morningside Heights and reconvene in LeFrak Gymnasium at 10pm for a Speakout. All are welcome join, but only women will lead the line. The Take Back the Night march demonstrates against sexual violence and raises awareness of its prevalence. These harrowing statistics emphasize why sexual assault demands special attention:

  • The United States has the highest rape ratio of any country that reports such statistics.
  • Almost 25% of college students have been victims of rape or attempted rape.
  • 90% of undergraduate college women who have been sexually assaulted knew the perpetrator.
  • 95.4% of rape offenders are male and 96% of survivors are female.
  • Approximately 17.8% of female high school students report being forced to engage in sexual activity against their will by a dating partner.
  • Fewer than 5% of these completed or attempted rapes are reported to law enforcement.

These issues affect your peers, and you probably know a victim. Last year the Spectator published a deeply unsettling op-ed on the failure of Columbia’s sexual assault policy to discipline a student who had raped the author twice. She called out University’s failure to treat such offenses with appropriate gravity or provide support for victims of sexual violence. Official procedures for addressing rape and other cases of sexual assault are now being seriously revisited and improved. Students truly have the ability to change the prevailing culture of silence about these injustices, and to make campus a safer, more equal space for women. But you have to speak up. See you tonight!

Check back for coverage of demonstration later tonight. You can also read Bwog’s coverage of the march from 2010 and 2009.

Columbia provides valuable resources for support:
Nightline, the Columbia-Barnard peer counseling hotline, will offer extended hours tonight (10pm-5am), and can be reached at 212-854-7777.
The University’s Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center: 212- 854-HELP

The Men’s Peer Education Program
Columbia’s Health Services
The University’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Program (SVPRP)
Counseling and Psychological Services (Columbia): 212-854-2878
Rosemary Furman Counseling Center (Barnard): 212-854-2092

Office of the University Chaplain: 212-854-1493

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE

And one quick note: A little while back, we were stunned the display of solidarity in this comment thread. We hope people will continue to show support for the victims you most likely know.

Sex Toys and Free Food on the Ramps

Take Back the Night’s Sexhibition Health Fair is going on today from 11am-3pm on the Lerner Ramps and in the Roone Arledge Lobby. Decorate penis cookies, nab some free condoms and pomegranate vanilla-flavored lube, and enter the sex toy raffle. Baked goods and orgasms for all!

At 7pm, Sexhibition will be screening the documentary Orgasm Inc.: The Strange Science of Female Pleasure in the Diana Event Oval. Filmmaker Liz Canner will lead a discussion on sex in college, the medicalization of female sexuality, female viagra pills and other such sex-inspired themes.

Ending the Silence about Sexual Violence

Last night, the annual Take Back The Night march, demonstrating against sexual violence and raising awareness of the oft-neglected or trivialized issue, wound its way through Morningside Heights for the 22nd time. Bwog’s Mark Hay was on the streets following the march step by step throughout the night.

Rolling out from the Barnard Gates at 8 PM, last night’s march started strong, keeping its energy throughout the evening. As cries and chants of “take back the day, take back the night, take back our bodies, take up the fight,” “university silence perpetuates the violence,” and many others reverberated through the urban canyons, drawing any waking life to the windows and fire escapes to peer down in support. Some rushed out to the steps, banging pots and pans or screaming out praise and support for the marchers, while others stood bemused by the wending line preventing them from crossing the street.

Police estimates place the attendance of last night’s march at approximately 500 – among them Barnard President Debora Spar, although event organizers estimated that, at its peak, the line was 700 strong, drawing in people off the streets despite an intermittent drizzle and gusting winds. While stopped for a moment on College Walk, the troop filled the main drag from street to sundial.


Take Back the Night

Night March starts at 8pm, Barnard gates.

Speakout starts at 10pm, LeFrak Gym.

We’ll see you at the march. Expect pictures later tonight!

Bwoglines: Staking Our Claim

Massive university expansion plans, angry neighbors…sound familiar? (Business Week)

Glee kids hooray! You’re on MTV. (MTV)

The night will be taken back by the ladies first, as per tradition. (Spec)

We have a patent on engineering anatomical bone, and we’ve grown a temperomandibular! (New Tang Dynasty)

NY government plans to charge the homeless rent to stay in shelters. All of a sudden CU Housing’s not looking so shabby. (NYT)

Update: Tipsters tell us we’ve got quite the kick-ass Women’s Rowing team; they’re up for “crew of the week” on some fancy rowing website. It’s the end of the week, the sun is shinning…why not show some Columbia lovin’ with a vote?

Photo via flickr

Chanting The Night Away

“Tonight,” declared one of the Take Back the Night organizers before the march, “we reclaim the streets!” And for the 21st time, anti-sexual violence marchers (about 200 this year) took to the streets around campus with a mix of chants and whistles, adding a dose of public emotion to their campaign against sexual violence.

Unlike last year’s version, there was little groundbreaking about the march. For the second year in a row, though, men were allowed to march from the beginning, although a woman-only “safe space” zone at the head of the march remained in effect (when TBTN organizers decided to go equal gender last year, Columbia’s Sexual Violence and Prevention people objected, saying that some survivors preferred marching without men and so the safe zone was created). Men remained about 10-15% of the whole group.

As the group turned off of Broadway onto 116th, the chanting began in earnest: “What do we want? Safe streets! When do we want it? Now!” and “University silence perpetuates the violence” were two particularly common ones, though sometimes the back and front of the march had two rhythms going. But the most ear-splitting effect was when the group used its whistles as a whole – the high pitches bouncing off building facades split this writer’s ear drums quite effectively. (more…)

CCSC Demonstrates the Meaning of “Snafu”

Like many other college campuses, Columbia sees an explosion of events every April, as the warm weather and the pending exam period leads groups to trip over each other in occupying Low Plaza. The overlaps are hardly without amusement, of course: Bwog looks forward immensely to the 4/20 screening of Alice in Wonderland coinciding with the second half of Days on Campus (“Yeah, Mom, Columbia’s just like Brown!”).

Other screw-ups, though, verge somewhat more into the embarrassing category, and this year’s best example comes courtesy of our friends on the Columbia College Student Council, who scheduled not one but two events during the annual Take Back the Night march. Yes, tomorrow night students will be able to choose between marching against sexual violence, a Class of 2010 dinner at Campo, or, for the other three classes, King’s Ball: Bollywood Adventure in Roone (UPDATE: CCSC 2010 has moved now its class dinner to 7 p.m., though King’s Ball remains overlapping). Not since the days of “Pregame Lol!” vs. Barack Obama has such a critical event showdown confronted the campus.

In CCSC’s defense, the council has recognized the conflict, and has already taken steps to show its support for the march: CCSC members will be joining the march as it passes by Campo and then the Columbia campus. Nevertheless, since this is not the first calendaring mishap this year, perhaps next year’s council should check out this helpful site.


Take Back the Night Promenades

Right now, what seems to be a solid column of rape-whistling women and male allies is making its way down College Walk, chanting in unison. It’s cacophonous, powerful! More to come later.

Edit: Alex Port sends aerial photos from East Campus–after the jump!

Check back later tonight for complete TBTN coverage by Anna Phillips and photos from Kate Linthicum. 


The Night, it has been taken


Hundreds stood, their fists raised, ringed by police, silent. And then, the cries went up.

“Together we unite to take back the night!” 

“Hey hey, ho ho, Sexual Violence has got to go!”

The crowd, about 90% women and the most popular men on campus, lurched forward, flooding across Broadway and down 116th street to
kkRiverside. Shouts went up in disunison, adding to the cacophony of rape whistles in a joyous celebration of girl power–especially urgent in light of last Saturday’s rape. They wound their way back up 114th street, past frat row, where brothers (and sisters) hung signs out their windows in support of the march. Passersby looked bemused, some slightly stunned, all quietly watching.

Bwog left feeling slightly less snarky than usual.

- LBD, bottom photo by Karen Kwan from the Quad