Friday, May 1, 2009

Rutgers Students and Faculty "Take Back The Night"

By Kiyanna Stewart

On April 23rd, as late night classes came to an end and dining halls closed their doors, Rutgers students of various academic concentrations participated in the annual “Take Back The Night” march. The group of approximately fifty students and faculty members marched down George and Somerset streets, as well as College Avenue, cheering “Communities unite, take back the night” and “No more silence, no more violence.”

The event has an extensive history, in which women across the globe have participated in projecting an active voice about omnipresent gender-based violence. According to the official “Take Back The Night” website, its “roots may lie in 1877 when women protested the fear and violence they experienced in the night-time streets of London, England.” However, the function of this particular event has grown to encompass international spaces and address the desires of women of various ages, socioeconomic background and cultural context.

Students topped off the eventful night at the Cooper Dining Hall on the Douglass campus, where musicians and spoken word artists performed work reflecting their opinions about violence against women. Among the performers was Rutgers University’s only all-female a cappella group ShockWave, whose member Alice Haefeli says the group believes “in women being stronger.” Angela Marquis, 20, a sophomore in the School of Arts & Sciences, told The Raritan Journal, “it was incredibly powerful to be with not only other women, but men as well, who seemed to be unified around a common cause. It was extremely empowering for me and others.”

“Take Back The Night” is one of many rallies which occurs on college campuses and in towns across the country in protest of domestic violence. However, much has changed since its emergence in the late 1800’s.

According to “Take Back The Night” Treasurer Pratima Munagala, a University College senior, when the event first started, men were not allowed to attend. Over the course of 132 years, male attendance has increased, partly due to an ideological shift within surrounding movements like feminism and human rights. These causes have expanded to include not only the rights of women, but of men as well. A recent article published in the The Register-Herald stated, “Not all aggressors are male, and the number of women arrested for domestic violence has increased, particularly during the last 10 years.” It would only make sense that these rallies would ideologically reflect current behavioral trends.

One of the motives of “Take Back The Night” is to educate citizens and promote awareness about partner violence. “We want to defy stereotypes tonight,” said Livingston College senior Alex Bringham. He later added, “By me being here, I’m making a statement about this issue's importance, regardless of race, gender or interest. This impacts everyone.”

Laura Luciano, assistant director of University Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance, helped coordinate the event. She talked to The Raritan Journal about the chances of young women in university settings encountering rape. “What we know about sexual violence is that about one in four college women in their four to five-year college career will be the victim of rape or an attempted rape,” she said. Similar statistics were published in The Daily Targum on April 24th.

According to the front-page article, women ages 16-24 are most at risk to experience intimate partner violence, and about 28 percent of high school and college women will experience dating violence. “The ages of victims of these sorts of crimes are lowering at an alarming speed. It’s horrifying to think that my 16-year-old sister can, at some point, be a victim of violence by a boyfriend. That’s why I’m here tonight,” replied Amina Lee when asked why she participated in the rally. She concluded with, “There are so many reasons, but I really want to be an example for others and for my little sister. I want to show that women are not passive when it comes to issues of social and political importance.”

Kiyanna Stewart is an undergraduate student at Rutgers University, majoring in Journalism & Media Studies and minoring in Africana and Women's & Gender Studies. With plans to work as a Fashion Journalist/Editor, she has been published in Women's Wear Daily, and has interned at reputable fashion labels, Theory and John Varvatos.

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