Take Back the Night takes on sexual violence myths

Editor’s Note: This article describes an event about gender-based violence.

The Sexual Assault and Violence Educators (SAVE) hosted Take Back the Night (TBTN) to raise awareness and empower survivors of sexual assault. Members of the campus community brought pillows and blankets to gather together at The Spot on April 5 for the national event.

TBTN is a national movement which began in the 1970s to protest sexual violence and assault, according to the TBTN Foundation. Currently, TBTN events have reached over 36 countries and 30,000 people.

“Tonight, we speak out and make a clear statement that here at [Case Western Reserve University] we will not tolerate violence,” said Danielle Sabo, campus advocate for Gender Violence Prevention and Response. “Anyone who has been victimized should not have to fear sharing their experience or reaching out for support. No survivor should have to feel shame or suffer in silence.”

Sabo was joined with multiple Cleveland Rape Crisis Center representatives for confidential support for attendees.

The event consisted of free food, an open mic and a confidential space for survivors and allies to share their experiences. These ranged from personal narratives and poetry to anonymous submissions.

A student who wished not be named attended TBTN found the experience to be “simultaneously horrible and uplifting.”

“[TBTN] is where you go to hear the most upsetting, uncomfortable and heartbreaking stories,” said the individual. “But you also see the power and strength of the victims and the support of the listeners.”

The event is SAVE’s main spring semester event and was put on with the help of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. SAVE is recognized by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) as a student organization and is cosponsored by the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women.

Alex Marshall, the treasurer for SAVE, finds TBTN to be an “extremely powerful” event which should be attended by everyone, not just sexual assault survivors.

“I feel like it’s important for me as a guy because I tell people I’m involved with sexual violence awareness and education and they’re like, ‘But why? What’s the point?’,” said Marshall. “Even though I’ve never had it happen to me, this is an important issue that people should be made aware of.”

Sabo believes that some of the most common misconceptions about sexual violence are that survivors are only women, perpetrators are only strangers, only men and that individuals who express their experiences are lying.

According to Sabo, the false-report rate of sexual assault is significantly lower than many other crimes at one-to-two percent, but is “the only crime in which the victim is immediately blamed or not believed upon reporting.”

Additionally, she said most survivors of violence know their perpetrators—they are a friend, classmate, colleague, family member or partner.

Looking ahead, Marshall sees “toxic masculinity” as something which should be taken on next by SAVE and the Greek Community on campus, and looks to hold an event next semester regarding the issue.

“A personal example is that I’m in a fraternity and a joke that goes around is, ‘That’s not frat,’” said Marshall. “It’s used as a joke but it really perpetuates a negative stereotype that [there is a specific way to be in a ‘frat’], and that leads to a lot of negative masculinity.”

TBTN events have had a place on the CWRU campus for several years, this year focused on the broader political environment.

“I think this semester [TBTN was an] empowerment movement supporting people and survivors,” said Marshall.

The #MeToo Movement was mentioned repeatedly throughout the event. According to their website, #MeToo began as a support movement for survivors of sexual violence, “young women of color from low wealth communities.”

Both TBTN and the #MeToo movement share the goal of healing, “empowerment through empathy” and ensuring “survivors know they’re not alone in their journey.”

TBTN is part of the campus-wide commemoration of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The University provides resources for self-care and support. University Counseling Services can be contacted at 216.368.5872 and counseling@case.edu. The Confidential Student Advocate at F.S.M. Center for Women can be contacted in person, at 216.368.8639 or danielle.bernat@case.edu. The SAFE Line is also open 24/7 for confidential conversations and can be contacted at 216.368.7777. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center provides a 24-hour text or call hotline at 216.619.6192, or chat online and has more information on their website.