Students Unite for Take Back the Night


Sara Platnick

Feminists advocating change and empowerment (FACE) and Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) hosted the annual Take Back the Night event on Thursday, April 14. The event, which is hosted every April, aims to reclaim the sexual violence that many people, especially women, face with a march around campus and an open-mic night in the foyer of Cordiner Hall to create a space for survivors to share their thoughts and experiences.

According to the Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network (RAINN), every 107 seconds a sexual assault occurs, and 68 percent of assaults never get reported to the police. Though the statistics vary, approximately 20 to 25 percent of all women will experience some form of sexual assault while in college and roughly six percent of men will experience some form.

“The issues of sexual assault and violence against women are really big and really important for people to be cognizant of. So for some people coming to this event, they might not really understand how critical these issues really are,” said junior Zoey Kapusinski, current FACE co-president and organizer of the event. “And so for people who aren’t interested, it’s a good way to get people to realize that these issues…are often very gendered, which is not to say that sexual assault only happens to women, sexual assault can happen to anyone, unfortunately. But this event is specifically meant to be an empowering and educational space.”

The Take Back the Night event began in the 1960s as a way to create a safe space for women to bring awareness to issues affecting them, including violence against women and sexual assault. Though the event has been challenged in the past for only being open to women, the event is now open to almost every student.

Photo by Amelia Wells
Photo by Amelia Wells

“There are certain individuals on this campus who we [encourage not] to come … essentially, assaultants and assailants are not welcome, but that’s pretty much the only people we do not want at the event. I think that if people were to show up and create a disruptive or unsafe space or use a rhetoric that’s really damaging, we would probably politely ask them to leave. But that really, as far as I know, has never been a problem here,” Kapusinski said.

During the march, students would hold signs and yell chants such as “shatter the silence/stop the violence” and “wherever we go/ however we dress/no means no/ and yes means yes.” The route begins at Cordiner Hall and travels the perimeter of campus, having participants march past the fraternities on Isaacs Ave, Ankeny Field and in between Anderson and Prentiss residence halls.

“I think just learning about consent and the dynamics of sexual assault here at Whitman College, I learned a lot more about it this year than when I was in high school, and I think there are a lot of situations that I witness, not only with myself but with other people, that I can define now as sexual abuse and so I am really interested in standing in solidarity with the victims of sexual assault here and forming a community that I can trust and stand with,” said first-year Danielle Hirano.

The march concludes with a return to the Cordiner foyer, where an open microphone is set up for survivors of sexual violence to speak. After establishing some ground rules for the space, including no video recording and that only survivors speak during the event, the space is open for any survivor to come forward and share his or her experience.

“What’s so surprising is how many of the people [that spoke] I knew … there’s always a part of you that knows this happens to people and you feel bad about it, but then there’s this other stage of realizing that this happens to people you know and that was intense,” said first-year Connor Finkbeiner.  “The first person I ever met at Whitman went up and talked, which surprised me [because her assault] happened to her since I met her. So it was intense because of all of that.”