Shatter the silence. Stop the violence. “Take Back the Night” is an international event and non-profit organization with the mission of ending sexual and domestic violence in all forms that will be held April 23, in the Warren ballrooms.
Plattsburgh State of Center for Womyn’s Concerns President and education history and gender and women’s studies major Steffaney Wilcox said the event will start with tabling with different PSUC organizations, such as Black Onyx: The Black Student Union, Planned Parenthood, Organization of Women’s Ethnicity, Health Peer Educators, Title IX and CWC.
She also said a community organization, Violence Intervention Program will be in attendance. The organizations will be handing out information and informing students on their clubs.
After tabling, guest speaker Wagatwe Wanjuki will talk about the sexual assault prevalence on college campuses. Wilcox said Wanjuki will also address victim blaming questions. Wanjuki was assaulted multiple times by a person she was in a relationship with when she attended Tufts University in Massachusetts. The school administration did not take action back when she tried in 2008.
“Where were you, and were you drinking, or what were you wearing? Changing those questions is the first step in changing the social aspects with that,” Wilcox said.
Since then, Wanjuki has fought back using social media, does guest speaker appearances at schools and most recently appeared at the 2016 Oscars.
Wanjuki was a part of Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You” Oscar performance when the singer invited past survivors and victims of sexual abuse to the stage.
PSUC senior biochemistry and gender and women’s studies double major and the public relations chair of CWC Rimple Bal said the title of the event has a lot to do with power.
“There’s power being taken away from a person,” she said. “And that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day, and Take Back the Night embodies that, taking back your power.”
After Wanjuki’s speech, the ballroom will turn off the lights so people can share their experiences anonymously. If they wish to show their identity, they can do so using a flashlight to reveal their face.
“That’s a pretty powerful aspect of the whole event because people go and say, ‘Yes I’m going to share my experience,’ and some people don’t know they’re going to share until they get there, which is powerful,” Wilcox said. “Just to know there are people that share similar experiences to you.”
Students who signed up will then share their poems and music. Bal said this year there are many performers lined up, including PSUC junior communications major Akel Martin.
“I liked the idea of the event. It’s about a subject matter that’s underrepresented,” Martin said. “Yeah, it’s an obvious thought but most people, if they do or think about it once and then leave it alone.”
Martin said he is reciting multiple poems at the event, one at which poem is about two gay men in love and how society doesn’t value their love during this time period.
“The reason why it works for Take Back the Night is because this couple were minding their business and were beaten to death. Nobody believed the family so it was a nightmare,” he said.
Another poem Martin teased is about saying thank you to anyone who wants to help and feels guilt for not being able to help.
“Just the fact that you’re trying to help is enough,” he said. “Anybody in the world who falls into that category deserves a thank you.”
He said students should attend the event because they’re talking about the same topics covered on campus but in a different way.
“It’ll be good to hear people our own age talking about this. It’s not just an adult thing. It’s our thing, which will help,” Martin said. “It’s just showing support.”
Students can attend the “Take Back the Night” march right after the event. The CWC got the route approved and has been working closely with the Plattsburgh City Police and University Police.
“We have signs that people can take and we have a list of chants that we chant. A lot of them are about ending sexual violence and its manifestations,” Wilcox said.
The march goes toward downtown and makes a loop back to campus. Police will attend the march to walk with students and block off streets with police cars, according to Wilcox.
Bal encourages people to attend the event and said when she was a freshman, she was told to go to the event for a class. “For me, I didn’t really know that much about sexual assault or rape. I knew that these things happened, but I didn’t realize how frequent of an occurrence it was,” Bal said.
Wilcox said the event is open to everyone on campus. In the past, “Take Back the Night” has been strictly or focused about violence against women, but Wilcox said these violences can happen to anyone.
“It opens people’s eyes because if you haven’t been exposed to this, it shows that it does happen,” Bal said. “You’re showing solidarity to people. If you haven’t been assaulted but you’re there, you’re showing people that have been assaulted that you care.”
Wilcox said that showing support is key to ending victim blaming.
“The event is aimed at supporting the community so if you don’t know anyone or identify as a survivor, you can show support and say, ‘I want to end this social norm of sexual violence or sexual assault in our community,’” Wilcox said.
Email Kavita Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org