Choruses of, “No more violence! No more silence!” echoed throughout Colgate’s campus on Monday, April 10. Hundreds of Colgate students and faculty members banded together in solidarity with sexual assault survivors for the annual Take Back the Night march. Following the march, the Center for Women’s Studies hosted a speakout exclusively for survivors of sexual assault and those the survivors personally chose to invite.
The march was sponsored by The Network, a Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE) team, Delta Delta Delta and Haven, Colgate’s center for sexual violence support. The Network co-leaders, sophomore Kate Bussey and seniors Rachel Drucker and Molly Bloomenthal, organized the event in collaboration with COVE Office Manager and Team Adviser Colleen Nassimos.
In the 1970s, Take Back the Night began as an anti-violence movement that has since spread internationally as a way to bring about awareness of sexual and relationship violence. The march strives to create a supportive atmosphere for survivors. Although originally intended to promote a safe environment for women, the march has greatly expanded in scope. The Network encouraged students of all genders and sexual identities to participate in the march. Take Back the Night is a part of a series of events that aim to support and educate students as part of Sexual Assault Awareness month. Take Back the Night helps both survivors and allies to speak out against sexual and relationship violence and demand social change on college campuses and beyond.
On Saturday April 1, the Colgate community received an official statement released by Interim Vice President and Dean of the College Mark D. Thompson notifying the community that “Within the last 24 hours, we have received reports of two alleged sexual assaults that occurred during the previous week; the first on Monday, March 27 and the other on Thursday, March 30. Reports indicated that both assaults occurred at [or in association with] 88 Broad Street, the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house. The identities of the alleged perpetrator(s) is not yet known. We are currently gathering information and have contacted the New York State Police Campus Sexual Assault Victims Unit as well.”
Students showed their solidarity with survivors by attending the march and refusing to remain passive toward issues of sexual violence. Students proudly displayed homemade signs condemning rape and sexual assault.
Recently elected 2017-2018 President of the Student Government Association (SGA) junior Derek Baker recognized the importance of continuing the momentum of the march.
“Rachel, Molly and Kate led a tremendous march and I’m so glad so many people showed up. I think people on this campus, myself included, can do more to support sexual assault survivors, protect survivors and victims of violence, and help create a safer campus. I hope this march and the last few weeks will be a wake up call to us all on the terrible and hateful acts that take place around us all the time,” Baker said.
Take Back the Night advocates for peacefully combating rape culture in order to make a safer environment for all individuals. In prior years, far fewer students attended this annual march. Bussey shared her passion for change with students as they flooded the chapel steps as the march drew to a close.
“I am overwhelmed and proud to be a part of this campus. We don’t do this because there is something wrong with Colgate, we do this because there is something wrong with the world. We love Colgate and we want to make it better,” Bussey said. “I want to thank Haven and everyone who works on this issue every single day of the year. Not just when it hurts, but every single day. And it matters every single day.”
Bussey, Drucker and Bloomenthal distributed teal bracelets and pins among the attending students to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month. March leaders also initiated several chants among the crowd and encouraged students to shout out in harmony. Starting at Frank Dining Hall, the march continued past Persson Hall, down Broad Street and turned around at the corner of College and Broad. Students then marched towards Willow Path, crossed the third floor of Case-Geyer Library and ended outside of the Colgate Memorial Chapel steps. Along the route, survivors and supporters were given the opportunity to share their thoughts and stories.
As the march progressed down Broad Street, men from several fraternities joined in the march. When asked about the social culture on campus, sophomore Alex Goldych shared discontent with the behavior of men involved in Greek life.
“I definitely feel that fraternity parties create a dynamic of dominance on the part of the men involved, just because the nature of the Greek social system is that women are required to bring themselves into these all-male spaces, which the men literally call their house. In the march I sort of felt that same sense of needing to meet the men in their own place, as many did not join us until we approached their specific houses, if they joined at all,” Goldych said.
Bloomenthal reflected on the turnout of the event, as well as the arrival of fraternity men who joined mid-march.
“It was definitely a bigger turnout than we expected. Last year I think only ten people attended. And we knew a lot more were coming, but I don’t think we ever expected that much. It was interesting to have the fraternity men join us as we walked by their houses – well, some of them,” Bloomenthal said.
The Network has existed as a part of campus life for 14 years, and strives to foster a supportive environment for survivors. When asked about the future of The Network, Nassimos articulated the necessity of continuing to aid students affected by sexual violence.
“Our focus is support for survivors. At one point it would be nice to not need this group. We’ll see if that day ever comes. Probably not in my lifetime, but I’m still hopeful,” Nassimos said.
Sophomore D’Jonita Cottrell expressed her satisfaction with the Take Back the Night March and posed examples of further action students could take to move forward and combat rape culture on campus.
“The atmosphere of the march was amazing and it is clear that Colgate does have a group of people who want to support survivors of all forms of sexual violence in any way they know how,” Cottrell said. “A big critique with these kinds of events is that, while they do a great job of gathering community, they don’t always provide information on survivorship, resources around campus or concrete action steps that each and every individual can take to support survivors everyday. Because of this, it’s important that in addition to these marches, students also take it upon themselves to self-educate and to do more research and have more discussion about what larger powers and systems are at play here.”
Additional chants echoed throughout the ensemble of students, projecting a message that condemned sexual violence, while simultaneously promoting a culture of respect for others. Hundreds of voices cried in harmony: “Yes means yes, no means no. Whatever we wear, wherever we go.”
Bussey, Drucker and Bloomenthal want the effects of this event to be long lasting.
“I don’t want anyone to walk away from last night thinking that because everyone showed they care that it’s over, that we’ve done something, that that’s it. That’s not it, that’s not change. That’s solidarity, which is a great step, but that’s not change,” Bussey said.
Bloomenthal articulated that sexual assault will not diminish unless real change occurs.
“This conversation [regarding sexual assault] needs to keep happening on campus and this can’t just go away because it won’t go away. The issue itself won’t go away,” Bloomenthal said.
Nassimos believes respect and decency towards all is a necessary part of life on campus. She asserts the necessity of education for actively combatting violence.
“Colgate is a community and everyone needs to look after one another right now, not just when it directly affects them or somebody that they know. As a result of the things that have happened recently, I think [marching] is people’s way of showing their support. We just want people to keep thinking about it when they leave. This is not just a one day thing,” Nassimos said. “We need to take care of each other.”