April 29, 2002

'Take Back the Night' Protests Sexual Violence

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It was a night of tears and of laughter, of anger and of inspiration, of healing and of hugging, of speeches and of song.

Approximately 60 Cornellians marched from Ho Plaza down to the Ithaca Commons last Friday night to join Ithacans and Ithaca College to once again attempt to take back the night.


“Hey, hey – mister, mister! Get your hands off my sister,” yelled the crowd. And shouts of “Hey, hey! Ho-ho! This sexist shit has got to go!” sounded through the Cornell campus, Collegetown and downtown Ithaca.

Take Back the Night is an annual mid-April rally against sexual assault and domestic violence.

“This is my sixteenth Take Back the Night, and I have mixed feelings about that. Year after year we gather because our homes and our streets are not as safe as we deserve them to be,” said Lis Mauer, one of the featured speakers at the event.


“Our goal with Take Back the Night is not to make the world safe. Although this is a nice dream to have, and in the whirlwind of chanting and yelling, we might convince ourselves that we can make that change, we unfortunately cannot,” said Tara Foley, a member of the Take Back the Night collective and one of the organizers of the event.

The rally featured 12 speakers, singers and poets. Between every three presenters was a speak-out session in which crowd members stood up and told stories of abuse and rape.

Take Back the Night is a national movement of rallies that all happen within three weeks of each other. In Ithaca it was organized by the Take Back the Night Collective, which is made up of various groups from the community, Ithaca College and Cornell.

“The CVSA (Crime Victims of Sexual Assault Services) was really home base,” said Kelly Rawson ’03, the incoming president of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC).

“We’ve been meeting as a collective since January. We got this together through postering and word of mouth. We knew we needed to get the WRC involved because we have a commitment to the Cornell community to defend them,” she said.

She said she thought the rally was successful and that “there were about double the amount of people marching down from last year.”

During the speak out sessions, one woman spoke of the healing process she was going through after being gang raped by six men a year and a half ago.

“My promise to you, my rapists, is that I will make changes in this world,” she said.

Another woman talked about being raped in October.

“It took me a long time to realize what happened. I drank too much, and I passed out, and I woke up, and he was cumming inside of me. I talk to counselors, and I’m on medication, but nothing makes me feel better. I know I’ll get through this because I’m strong. The hardest part is the way people throw around the word rape like it’s nothing because it is something, and it hurts people,” she said.

A male student talked about being abused for four years by his mother’s boyfriend.

“The police knew me by name,” he said.

A woman named Jen said that “singing is often times easier.” She sang a chant to the Indian goddess of changing bad habits, Shiva.

Kadi Sawicki and Bora Yoon both sang folk songs, and Colleen Kattau led a sing-a-long session.

“I just want to stop the violence,” Kattau said before she started singing. “You can get ‘nice love’ out of the word violence if you mix the letters around.”

Prof. Andrea Parrot, policy analysis and management, spoke about her research on violence against women around the world.

“Other places have problems of a different nature,” she said. She told the crowd about being in South Africa where “there is a widely held belief that if a man has sex with a virgin, he will be cured of HIV/AIDS.”

She explained that in many of the poorer townships, virgins are marked with a sort of temporary tattoo to protect them.

“Put those two things together, and in some townships the rape rate is 48 percent. Women are being raped at younger ages. When we got to South Africa, there was a case that was all over the papers where a nine-month old baby was gang raped by six men who were trying to cure themselves of HIV,” she said.

Parrot also spoke about all-female police stations in Brazil that exist to make women feel more comfortable about reporting sexual assault.

“What are the policy changes we want here to help prevent rape,” Parrot asked.

Parrot intends to teach a class next spring called “Global Perspectives on Violence Against Women” at Cornell, approval of the class is pending.

Phoebe Brown of the CVSA compared the march down to the Commons with “being a little girl and watching the march on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Others spoke on the merits of having the march itself.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Brown’s colleague Michael Mandel. “By coming here tonight we have started that work.”

Archived article by Freda Ready