As part of this year’s Take Back the Night, members of Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS) pushed to create safe and inclusive spaces for survivors of sexual assault.
Several dozen students participated in the event, which was held the evening of Friday, May 8. Take Back the Night included a demonstration during which students marched around the college’s campus.
The demonstration was part of the Take Back the Night movement, through which similar demonstrations have been organized in Europe and America for decades. Nocturnal marches against sexual assault using the slogan “take back the night” have existed since at least the 1970s, and at Knox for at least five years.
The goals of staging demonstrations at night are not only to raise awareness of the issue among non-participants, but also to empower the participants to enter a space that they may not normally have access to.
“The purpose is to take back the space that has been taken from us,” said senior and President of SASS Hadley Gephart, one of the event’s organizers. “Traditionally, it’s thought that people who are victims of violence are afraid to go outside, and women in particular are afraid to go outside at night because they are afraid that they’ll get hurt. So Take Back the Night is a time when we’re supposed to take back the space we don’t normally feel safe in.”
Toward this goal, the organizers made sure that there would be no mandatory reporters present during any of the events.
“A main goal is to provide a safer space that people probably don’t have elsewhere on campus,” senior organizer Rachel Kuehnle said. “Making it a non-mandatory reporting space is integral to that.”
The evening started with a video series assembled by SASS members called “Sexual Violence at the Margins,” a collection of video lectures and interviews aimed at expanding the popularly understood image of a sexual assault survivor.
“People usually think of sexual assault survivors as being white, cisgender, straight women,” said junior Brya Johnson, who helped put together the series. “And while those perspectives are important, we want to raise up the voices of other victims of sexual violence that we are usually less likely to hear from.”
After the video screening, the participants marched around campus chanting, “Students, unite! Take back the night!” and other slogans against sexual violence. When the march started, there were about 30 people in the crowd, and by the end there were about 40.
Freshman Abbey Kruse and sophomore Karen Lynch did not know about the march until they saw it passing their residence hall and decided to join.
“We saw the protest going and thought, that’s really impactful, let’s join,” Kruse said. “To know that the student body is this supportive and this loving for each other just makes me feel so proud to be a part of Knox.”
The organizers felt that the event was a great success, but they see Take Back the Night as one of many things that they can do to combat sexual assault on campus and elsewhere.
“I think that now is a really important time for us to be paying attention to this issue, especially because the school is under a lot of pressure, and I think that it’s important to sustain pressure as a student body,” Gephart said. “I just hope that [Take Back the Night] is not the only thing that people remember about activism surrounding sexual assault awareness, and that this isn’t the only thing that people continue to do.”