April 28, 2013

Hundreds March to Ithaca Commons to ‘Take Back the Night’

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About 200 students and Ithaca community members marched down to the Commons to “Take Back the Night,” showing solidarity against sexual violence and speaking up in support of survivors.

The night, which brought together students from Cornell, Ithaca College and local high schools, as well as City of Ithaca residents, ended with a candlelight vigil.

Cries like, “People unite, take back the night!” rang through the air as students and locals led three separate marches to Dewitt Park from Cornell, Ithaca College and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center.

Speakers at the event included Deborah Mohlenhoff (D-5th), who officially proclaimed April 26 as a day to “take back the night,” and Joanne Farbman, a representative of the Ithaca Advocacy Center.

At one point, the night was interrupted by an unexpected confession by an individual who said that he felt remorse about committing rape.

The individual, who did not identify himself, said that he raped someone, according to Amanda Nichols ’14 and Olivia Duell ’14, who were both present at the event. The individual, who had not signed up to talk — as others had — rose to speak during the speak-outs, a portion of the event for survivors and allies to come forward and discuss their own experiences relating to sexual violence, according to Nichols.

The individual spoke about the trauma he had faced as a result of committing rape and how it was affecting his grades, according to Nichols.

The man then talked about the difficulties he and the woman he had raped were facing, saying that they were still working through the issue, according to Nicholas.

The man ended his speech saying that everyone should continue to stand up against sexual assault and violence and that men should get involved in raising awareness of the issue, according to Nichols.

“I wanted to say, ‘If you want to end the problem, make a statement and turn yourself into the police,’” Nichols said. “Just because he felt bad about it, doesn’t mean that a crime didn’t happen.”

After the man spoke, he left the stage, leaving the crowd silent.

Other attendees also expressed their dissatisfaction with the incident, saying that Take Back the Night was an inappropriate venue to engage in a discussion of its kind.

“It was pretty jarring that a man admitted to raping a woman in front of an audience full of survivors and in my opinion, it was pretty inappropriate. However, the event recovered and continued smoothly,” Rudy Yoder ’15, who is also a Sun news reporter, said.

Duell said that she and her friends were upset because they believed the speak-out space was for survivors, not perpetrators.

“It was totally inappropriate. He looked at survivors and said ‘Hey, I raped somebody,’” Duell said. “I can imagine how that would be triggering [for survivors].”

Lauren Parker ’15, who helped organize the event, echoed Duell’s sentiments, saying the individual’s comment compromised the assurance of a safe space for survivors.

“Take Back the Night is supposed to be a safe space where survivors can share their stories and feel supported, and I think this person’s comment compromised the purpose and intention of the evening,” Parker said.

Overall, however, attendees said that the event was inspiring.

“I thought it was successful. The speak-outs were inspiring. … There was a lot of bravery [in the speak-out],” Parker said.

Duell agreed, saying that the event was “nice up until [the individual spoke about raping somebody].”

Original Author: Kritika Oberoi