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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.

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Was this written by Bwog or by the organizers of TBTN? Not that there’s anything wrong with TBTN…

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Even your careful qualifying sentence will not save you from the irrational thumbs-downing of pro-TBTN Bwog commenters.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with TBTN. I fully support it. Not that there’s anything wrong with journalistic integrity either…

      1. lol@ says:

        @lol@ journalistic integrity.

        excuse bwog for actually caring about people.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Caring about people = not listing an author? Every other feature piece gets one.

  • Power! says:

    @Power! POWER!

  • A polite correction... says:

    @A polite correction... Councillors –> Counsellors

  • I was there says:

    @I was there and 800 seems like a fantastic overestimation. More like 300-400. Not that that wasn’t great turnout/that it wasn’t an amazing event.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Good for TBTN for annually reminding people that they should be activists about sexual violence, but I guarantee you that 99.8% of the people who participated in the march don’t bother to think about it the other 364 days which is why the statistics never change. It’s like one night of solidarity assuages the guilt of spoiled assholes, who get to feel like they’re actually doing something good in the world when really it’s meaningless symbolism that doesn’t actually make anything better for anyone. Wasting your time with empty gestures is absurd when you can spend a few hours each year doing something that actually helps.

    1. dude says:

      @dude I’m rite down with you on that comment!!! Totally agree!

    2. Logic? says:

      @Logic? Why wouldn’t the people participating in the march consider those statistics the rest of the year? These activists are probably the only people who actually do think about these things year-round, the kind of people who read posts on and shake their heads in disgust at normal (if subliminally bigoted) behavior.

      I’m pretty no one capable of sexual assault would have anything to do with TBTN.

    3. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous That is a terribly offensive comment. The speak-out demonstrated the number of TBTN participants who are survivors of sexual assault, and friends and relatives of survivors, who likely think about the sexual assault every single day. In addition to these marchers, many volunteers and employees of the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center and the Sexual Violence Program marched in support of the work that they do everyday. Many of the organizations on campus, like LUCHA and some of the sororities, also marched to show the importance of combatting sexual violence for their organization. Perhaps some of the TBTN participants march to feel that they are doing something, but doing something is better than doing nothing, and this is so untrue for so many of the participants.

  • what about the boys? says:

    @what about the boys? I think more guys should march. Like, I understand that more women are raped than men, and they might be uncomfortable having men march along with them. But on an individual level it’s just as sad/bad for a man to be raped and male victims deserve representation too. If anything, I bet men need more encouragement to speak up about being sexually assaulted.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Agreed, someone should look into that in the future.

    2. I think says:

      @I think that’s why people like me don’t like TBTN. It doesn’t seem to really be about sexual assault as much as its about women hating on men. If they fully included and respected male victims as well as female (rather than just nominally say they’re included to do stuff but not march in the front) I think TBTN would have more respect. It also wouldn’t be so much of a gender battle.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Sexual assault is difficult to talk about, regardless of gender. There is a stigma of being a survivor, and movements like these aim to dispel this stigma for all, not just women. I do not remember a single moment during the march and speakout where it seemed like women were more encouraged to participate than men. Yes, there is a women-led section for two reasons. Firstly, this is a women-led movement. I think that it is a mark of pride for TBTN and a small gesture to recognize and honor the beginnings of this movement. Secondly, this march is a safe space for survivors, who largely are women who were assaulted by men. To give them a space void of male voices and bodies has been appreciated and so it persists. However, I do not believe that the existence if it discourages males to stand up and take action. There is a large gender neutral section that is in no way less important than the women’s led section in the front.

  • male feminist says:

    @male feminist So I’m a boy and I marched. And lots of other boys did too. In fact, my and my buddy commented on the increase of boys marching this year.

    This isn’t about women-hating-on-men, that’s the kind of rhetoric that gives people a bad impression about feminism (it’s not about domination, it’s about equality). It’s about marching in solidarity. and if that makes you uncomfortable ask yourself why you’re so uncomfortable about it. Do women and survivors of sexual assault owning their bodies really make you that nervous?

    TBTN isn’t a gender battle. I’m a male survivor of sexual assault–my voice is was listened to just as much as any other voice. And I can guarantee you that people who marched think about this more than just one night of the year.

    don’t hate on it just because we’re asked to hold ourselves, our friends and our community accountable.

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