The Night Got Took

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“Do you all have your rape whistles?”  We did—we had been asked three times—each time by an eager Take Back the Night marshal.  They were roaming the mass of what Bwog estimates was about 300 girls who had gathered in front of Barnard Hall for the march last night and were decked out in purple t-shirts and bottled (for the moment) spitfire and fury.  (Spoiler alert: Two Varsity Show people skipped through the gates, grabbed a few rape whistles, and darted back out.)

The marching soon began and taxi drivers and motorists pounded their heads against their dashboards in utter frustration as a hoard of students descended upon Broadway. Traffic—as far as the eye could see—came to a halt and passengers in city buses and taxis descended to the shrill whistles and roar of:

“Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.”

“University silence perpetuates the violence”

“Rape is a felony even with a CUID”

Old people were stunned; babies waving from windows were delighted, and the one dog that participated in the march seemed to have consented. Many stopped and offered support—one man pushed his head through the sun roof of his sedan and began pumping his fist and pounding the car horn to the beat of the march. His percussive effects were soon replaced by two girls who joined with drums.

More after the jump.  

As the marchers made their way down Riverside Drive, a girl standing on the balcony of St. A’s daintily raised her champagne glass in tacit support.

The crowd over at Potluck House hung encouraging signs, as did the Pike brothers, and members of ADP, Delta Gamma, the IRC, and Sigma Nu.

Last night’s march was different from previous ones, as this year’s TBTN directors pioneered a movement to allow men to march on the streets alongside women. The idea didn’t go over that well with the Sexual Violence Prevention & Response people over at CU, and it took quite a bit of convincing for the march to have equal involvement of both genders. Ultimately, the TBTN leaders’ view that the event A.) shouldn’t force students to begin the march by deciding on a gender identity and B.) should be supportive of male survivors, won out. Though there was a compromise: the front of the march was women-led.

In all, the march was maybe 10-15% male, with Professor Dennis Dalton at the rear and a few boyfriends and Columbia Men Against Violence members scattered throughout.  Compared to last year’s march, this couldn’t quite compare. Last year’s TBTN came shortly after the rape of a Columbia Journalism School student in her apartment in Harlem—a tragedy that both frightened students and galvanized 1,600 marchers to take to the streets, compared to this year’s 500 (this is TBTN’s estimate, Bwog thinks it was slightly smaller). Last year, as the march passed frat row, groups of fraternity members broke off and joined the crowd. This year, most of them were at the inter-Greek formal.

The evening came to an end in Barnard’s gym, where students inhaled a dozen pizzas and nestled in blankets while a speak-out—the most emotionally wrenching part of the evening—began. With the gym’s lights turned off, men and women stood behind screens and told stories of their own rape or sexual abuse, or that of a loved one. Girls in the audience, many of whom had similar experiences, began to cry, and others fell silent as they recognized the voices and speech patterns of friends telling stories they hadn’t heard. The event went on until 2 a.m.                                                                –AMP




-photos by Kate Linthicum 


  1. SEAS '10

    I really hope no one posts an offensive comment here. I think this is awesome. I didn't march (maybe next year I will) but I'm glad others did.

  2. grammar police

    spellcheck bwog-- champAGNE not champAIGN

  3. guy  

    this sounds cool -- sorry I didn't go.

  4. Hopefully the

    marchers kept their receipt, because when I tried to take back the night after Christmas last year, the best I could get was a gift card. So disappointed.

    Made the best of it, though; I bought several articles of black activewear, duct tape, rope, a utility knife, and a bag of Crunchy Cheetos.

    Oh, and refilled my AZT.

    I guess what I'm saying is that what Target may lack in a return policy, it somewhat makes up for in its variety of merchandise.

    Love each other. Peace.

  5. Obvious  

    "The idea didn't go over that well with the Sexual Violence Prevention & Response people over at CU, and it took quite a bit of convincing for the march to have equal involvement of both genders."
    And people wonder why others criticize feminism and take back the night. Not to mention the men were pushed to the back. Sounds real equal to me. Separate but equal, historically, that has worked right?

  6. attended  

    not too much coherent feminist theory was to be heard. and the banishment of males to second-class participants was strange; all in all, seemed more like a folk event than incisive activism. they all seemed to feel really righteous though.

  7. before  

    you all get too pleased with yourselves, please read this:

    Heather MacDonald puts it well--I don't think rape should be dealt with by anyone other than police. A university has no place in handling actual criminal behavior. Our university is barely well-equipped enough to deal with plagiarism, let alone rape. Rape should be reported directly to the police, not to any school officials. If you guys want to march, march all you like. But what we don't need is more committees or whatever to deal with the aftermath of campus rapes. If you're raped, go to the fucking police. End of story.

    • oh boy  

      city journal, the most incoherent conservative/libertarian publication short of getting a handjob from rupert murdoch (and I say this as a conservative-leaning man myself), with an article written by a victor davis hanson co-author, I'm sure this will be an unbiased look at anything

      beyond the dripping derision and weasel words of that article, which dolls up the "you deserve it if you wear 'slutty' clothes" argument, yeah, there's a lot of bureaucracy. but she conveniently ignores the issues of unwanted contact, stalking, etc., and goes ahead and makes fun of gay people too for kicks

      yes, social moral responsibility enters into it, but of course, she'd much rather blast "LIBERALS LIBERALS LIBERALS" than recommend anything different

      if you called the police and said "my parter keeps on putting his/her hand down my jeans when he/she's drunk and I tell them 'no', should I just break up with him/her or what? what if he/she gets threatening?" what would the response be? do you think a restraining order works in college?

      in conclusion, that article is a joke

      • yeah...

        but seriously? 1 in 4 women being raped before leaving college? You really have to widen the definition of rape to come up with that statistic.

        Either my circle of friends is extremely subjected to selection bias, or something in the definition of 'rape' here doesn't fit reality. Sure, most people have had sexual encounters that they regret, but that is far different from willfully resisting a forced act...

  8. critic  

    to be honest, i haven't read that article, and it may very well be conservative or whatever.

    that said, i agree with #9. rape is a matter for the police and not for the university to handle.

    #10 is just coming up with a stupid example. obviously the police aren't going to go after your boyfriend if he touches you but you choose to remain with him. but i'm sure the police would go after your boyfriend if he rapes you. and they would also go after some random guy if that guy were to put his hand down your pants.

    • going  

      to the police could be scary and will create a situation where the victim no longer has much control. most rapes are by acquaintances or friends, and in circumstances like that people are often going to be reluctant to talk to the cops - i know at least one woman who has faced this situation. things can get even more complicated with factors like the case being an attempted, but unsuccessful, rape, or extreme drunkenness on the part of either party. an institution which is a little less impersonal than the police, which focuses on supporting the victim rather than punishing the perpetrator, and which doesn't rely on an adversarial, "beyond a reasonable doubt" approach before taking *some* action, can play a hugely positive role.

      lets think about this, and not just react with 'protect our women'/punish-the-violators rage that blinds us to the demands of *compassion* for rape *survivors*.

      • Reasonable Doubt  

        The "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the foundation of our criminal justice system. We should not assume guilt immediately. I agree that the police may not be the most comforting source for rape victims but I do not think that something as serious as rape should be handled by a non legal authority especially when they seem to believe guilty until proven innocent. I realize that most women or men for that matter would not make false claims but it is not unheard of. The Duke Lacrosse case comes to mind as an example. I understand that taking advantage of someone when they are clearly intoxicated and you are not is wrong but what about when both parties are drunk? Shouldn't they both be held just as responsible?

  9. the point is  

    rape crisis centers offer emotional support for people that can't otherwise be found with the police. when it comes to law enforcement, of course you should always defer to the police, but you can't downplay the importance of the emotional support offered by rape crisis centers.

  10. i'm in a  

    sexual assault proceeding right now and let me just say that rare are the cases where an individual gets expelled for raping a girl. It's quite disturbing that these rapists can come back to Columbia and sit in classes without anyone knowing the dirty history behind them...

    • i agree  

      i think rape (when it is, in fact rape, and not morning-after regret which has happened to the boys track team several years back) is very serious. i think it ought to be on his CRIMINAL record, and that he should be expelled for it. he ought to be doing some jail time. i've said it before--our university is barely well-equipped enough to deal with plagiarisim, let alone rape.

  11. i'm looking for  

    photos/audio/video of the event anyone?


    feel free to comment there too

  12. well  

    I actually have several friends here at school who have been raped at some point in their lives and I think if any have you ever had a conversation with a rape victim regarding their experience afterwards, you'll realize that there is little that the law can do to help them cope. A friend of mine took was volunteering on a nightline and during her training she said that they used Columbia University as an example of a school that does a horrendous job of helping their students through mental health issues. In light of that and examples of the utter neglect of the student population in this respect, I think it would be a travesty to silence the individuals who are actually making a sincere effort to help us.

    • Anon.  

      While commenter #18 is completely right that the Columbia administration does not do a good job of supporting people with mental health issues, I have to add that our Nightline is one of the very best on any college campus anywhere. Full disclosure: I was involved in Nightline, but I can tell you that there is no student group on campus with more training, experience, and empathy. If you want someone to be there to listen, for any reason, not just sexual assault, just call 212.854.7777.

  13. not quite...  

    You make some good points, and you seem like a very reasonable person.
    Handling responsibility when both parties are drunk is a tricky issue. Rather than holding both parties responsible equally, it makes sense to hold the person initiating the sexual contact responsible for getting explicit consent.
    "Explicit" doesn't have to mean "verbal", although it can. Explicit just means that you're really sure that the other person wants this to happen. If you're not sure, you don't have consent, that's sexual assault.
    This policy is gender (and sexuality) neutral. If you're a guy with a girl, be sure you have explicit consent. If you're a girl with a guy, be sure you have explicit consent. If you're a guy with a guy, be sure you have explicit consent. It's not rocket science.
    So if both parties are drunk, both are taking off one another's clothes, both are clearly enjoying themselves, etc., then yes, they are equally responsible. If two drunk people are hooking up and one of them is not doing anything, not saying anything, not initiating anything, then the other person is responsible.

    • A Few Points  

      Thank you for being reasonable as well. It is nice to see a person make a clear argument without resorting to name calling on the bwog. But I still disagree on the equality aspect. You are correct that legally in the state of New York the law applies the same to both genders and all orientations.

      But I still have a few problems. One, men who have been sexually assaulted are not given the same consideration or treatment as women. If they claim sexually assault by a woman they are generally ignored. Take Back The Night itself shows the lack of consideration given to men. This is the first year men were able to march. But they were forced to the back as second class citizens. It seems strange to claim that as equal. And that is a march to show support for victims, how do you the rest of the country looks at it?

      I agree that handling responsibility when both parties are drunk is quite a difficult task. You state that the person who initiates should be held responsible. If they were sober or not completely drunk I would agree. The problem arises when both parties wake up the next morning and do not remember what happened or have conflicting stories. Often times neither particularly remembers who initiated or at least they do not agree on who initiated it. In a case like that I think both parties may have to accept that it was a mistake but not rape. Unfortunately, if a woman filed rape charges in this case I am confident by the law she has a strong case whereas it does not work vice versa.

      I completely agree with you that if one party is doing everything and the other is too drunk to even function or has made no attempt to further the action that that is rape. I am just aware that often times it is not nearly that clear cut.

      Thank you again for having a civilized argument.

      • absolutely  

        Thank you to you as well for having a civilized argument.
        I could not agree more with almost all of the points that you make.
        First of all, we are on almost exactly the same page as far as male survivors of sexual assault are concerned. I could not agree with you more about how tragic it is that sexually assaulted men are believed and supported EVEN less than sexually assaulted women (especially if they are sexually assaulted by women).
        I think, though, that TBTN handled the situation well this year. It makes sense, for me, that men would be allowed to participate in the entire march, but it also makes sense that, literally and symbolically, the march should be led by women, since rape still happens to men far less than it does to women.
        I'm not a legal scholar, and I can't judge what is a strong case in court or not. I think, though, that there's no question a woman has an easier (though by no means easy) time being believed. It sounds like we agree, though, that this is a flaw.
        There's no question that regretted sex and sex without consent are not the same thing. I don't think, though, that there is an epidemic of people reporting sex that they regret as rape. It is not an easy process, whether with the police or the university, to report a sexual assault.
        My ultimate view is this: we could argue about degrees of "drunk" all day and get nowhere. We could argue about what happens when unjust fingers are pointed at men and women and get nowhere. But I hope we can agree that responsibility belongs to the initiator, and any policy from the university or the government ought to determine and reflect this as closely as possible.

  14. me me me  

    I wish I had gone to TBTN...but at the same time, I'm not sure I could have handled it. I've been raped 4 times. But I've only told two people ever. And I think telling a whole group of people would completely break me. Or even just hearing other people.

    All the same, I wish I had gone.

  15. friend  

    i hope you've already done this, but seriously if you haven't, please please talk to someone about this (a real professional as opposed to us internet-lurkers on bwog). they can help you work through this and both you and society as a whole will probably be way better off for it. also, do your research & if you can, prosecute the monsters who did this to you. you might save somebody else the suffering that you've experienced

  16. maybe, but...  

    i think it's way easier to say to prosecute the monsters who did this to you than to actually go out and do it.
    way too often it's someone you were friends with, someone you thought you knew, and someone who you have mutual friends with, and to get involved in any kind of legal battle with them is so much harder than just letting it slip away and dealing with it on your own. it's easy to say that your friends will side with you if you get raped, but it's hard to believe someone you are friends with would do something that horrible, and sometimes, it's easy for them to talk their way out of it, so it just ends up making the victim feel worse, and that's exactly what no one wants to do.

  17. an average feminst

    I agree you should report rape to the police. But read the research on rape on college campuses. I have and there is a ton of it. They all say similiar things...many of these cases go unreported because women blame themselves for various reasons. Secondly, the universitites involved frequently provide little to no consequences to the felons who commit these crimes or the institutions (such as fraternities) who know these acts are occurring and allow it to continue year after year. The reality is most rapes are done by someone you know and who you have a bit of trust in. Then the trust is violated. And many campus rapes (specifically gang rapes) the woman is completely unconscious during her assault.

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