Though cold wind and rain persisted, approximately 200 Ithaca College students and community members remained in front of the stage on The Commons to offer support to speakers who told their stories as survivors of sexual assault.
These “survivor speak-outs” were the focus of Ithaca’s 37th annual Take Back the Night, an event held at 7 p.m. April 29 to raise awareness about sexual assault and to support and honor survivors.
The event began with a march organized by Feminists United from Textor Hall to the Ithaca Commons. Groups of students and community members also marched down to The Commons from Cornell University and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center to gather in front of the stage. The march was followed by a rally, a vigil, several musical performances and spoken word poetry.
The theme of this year’s Take Back the Night was “redefining prevention.” Senior Erin Provost, Take Back the Night intern for the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County and an organizer of the event, said redefining prevention involves a shift in perspective in how society aims to stop rape.
“The theme involves taking what is known as prevention, which is telling girls not to dress a certain way, or not to go out, or not to drink — taking that and shifting it onto the responsibility of the perpetrators,” she said.
Recordings or quotes were not allowed to be taken from the survivor speak-outs to protect their privacy. Several survivors spoke about their experiences with sexual violence and the aftermath of their traumatic experiences. Others spoke about how they cope with the trauma, and many recited spoken word poems and essays about the pain they face every day as survivors of sexual assault.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are about 293,000 victims of sexual assault each year. Approximately four out of five rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, and 68 percent of these victims never report their assault to the police.
College students carried handmade posters during the march to the event while reciting several chants, such as: “We have the power, we have the right! The streets are ours, take back the night!” The group was greeted by cheers when it reached the gathering of community members on The Commons.
Kristi Taylor, adult community educator for the Advocacy Center and lead organizer of the event, said the main goal of the event is to raise awareness and allow the community to hear from survivors of rape or sexual assault.
“I truly believe that we cannot support survivors or make true change if we don’t hear from them and hear their stories, hear their voices and hear what their needs are,” Taylor said.
Freshman Anna Gardner said the event was much more powerful than she was expecting. She said she was shocked by how many people are affected by sexual violence and how young the victims were. She said the powerful event helped inspire her to volunteer at the Advocacy Center.
“Gathering of like-minded people is really important,” Gardner said. “Being a body to listen to those who are speaking is just as important as the people who come out to share their stories.”
Provost said the event is important because it exposes a central problem in society: Victims of sexual assault or rape are often silenced.
“There is a stigma about coming out as a victim or a survivor,” she said. “Having a visual representation of how our community is impacted by these crimes that are horrendous and happening every day, every minute, helps those victims.”