“Take Back the Night” scheduled for April 30 to raise awareness

The College’s third annual “Take Back the Night” (TBTN) will commence on April 30 on the steps of Chapin Hall. The evening will include a series of events that encourage men and women to speak out about rape and sexual assault through open discussion of these difficult issues.

TBTN has existed for several decades, but was just recently introduced to Williamstown by the Rape and Sexual Assault Network with support from the Dean’s and Chaplain’s Offices, Dining Services and local businesses like Where’d You Get That and Lickety Split.

“Originally, the intent was to have a march for women to symbolically ‘take back’ the dark spaces – the places at night of which they were afraid because of sexual assault,” said Meg Bossong ’05, one of five members on the organization committee for TBTN. “Since then, it’s grown into a nationwide – and actually worldwide – event, where both men and women unite in solidarity and support against the issues of rape and sexual assault.”

Bossong has been working with Alicia Andrews ’03, Marissa Black ’05, Andra Hibbert ’05 and Bryce Inman ’05 in planning next week’s events.

The evening will begin at 8:45 p.m. with a candlelight ceremony and performances by different student groups on Chapin Hall steps. In TBTN’s original tradition, students will then walk to the lawn in front of Schow where rape and sexual assault survivors and their supporters will speak about their experiences and offer words of encouragement. Following the speeches will be an open mic session in Stetson Lounge, which will offer refreshments and a chance for people to discuss their thoughts with peers or record their feelings on paper. Network members will also be available at that time to offer support and answer any questions.

“This certainly should not be an event that people think they can’t come to if they themselves are not survivors of a rape or assault,” Bossong said. “One of the most valuable things I heard last year after TBTN were that a lot of myths about sexual assault were dispelled by the speakers.”

According to statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in four women and one in 10 men will be the victim of rape or sexual assault in their lifetime. TBTN may also be valuable in addressing some of the incidents that have taken place at the College in the last few weeks.

Bossong hopes that the night will raise awareness about such issues: “In terms of the recent incidents on campus, they will be addressed insofar as we’re addressing the issues of respect for the people you’re in a relationship with and the extent to which rape and sexual assault really do affect everyone,” she said.

“I think it’s important to remember that rape is something that affects survivors and people close to survivors for a long time beyond when the assault occurs, whether it took place on campus, off campus, during college or before college,” Bossong said. “We want TBTN to be a supportive, helpful night for everyone who attends, regardless of their relationship to the issue.”