On Tuesday, students participated in Take Back the Night, an event geared toward protesting sexual violence and giving space for students to share their experiences with sexual violence on and off campus.
The event, held by the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education and Response (SARA) and co-sponsored by numerous organizations across campus, was part of programming related to Sexual Assault Month.
“[Take Back the Night] is a cornerstone of sexual assault advocacy on campus,” said Sofia Dudas ’20, a student staff member at the SARA office who spearheaded the event.
The event mainly focused on highlighting student stories about sexual assault, sexual violence and relationship violence on campus through a two-hour “speakout.”
Standing in front of posters with phrases such as “Consent is a continuous conversation” and “No does not mean convince me,” members of the campus community had the opportunity to share stories of struggle and survival.
“Folks will hear in the survivor stories about the harm that has been caused when others have not done this at the speak out,” wrote Carley Flanery, the director of SARA in an email to The Daily. “I hope that this helps folks understand the impact that these experiences of violence have and that it underscores the importance of respecting the humanity of others that you are engaging with intimately, sexually or even platonically.”
The organizers’ hope was that students who decided to share their stories would leave feeling a little more healed by the experience.
“Healing is necessary to be able to gain the strength to move forward, and I think [Take Back the Night] offers that,” said Lia Nilson, the Springboard Fellow at Hillel who helped organize the event.
Students said the event allowed listeners to glimpse sides of both strangers and friends that they did not have access to before.
“Just the sheer quantity of people that had these stories, some of them faces I knew, people I knew, who had sides of themselves that I didn’t know — it was hard for me to see that my friends had had to go through something like that,” said Christian Ostberg ’20.
Others said the stories of students across campus forced attendees to start thinking seriously about conversations surrounding sexual and relationship violence.
“I think it’s just important that we’re actually talking about these things, and it’s really important to not pretend that everything is perfect,” said Jill Rogers ’20.
Before the speakout, Take Back the Night held a silent march across campus and a rally focused on educating people about sexual violence and making them aware of campus resources targeted at affected students, like the Department of Public Safety, the Title IX Office and SARA.
“I’ve definitely heard of a lot of people who have felt [unsupported] by Stanford resources and that makes me feel really sad,” Dudas said.
However, she hopes that events like this will help change that mindset.
“Drop by,” Dudas said. “See what our office does, because I think there’s a lot of confusion. Take time to educate yourself on these resources.”
Members of the administration — including Provost Persis Drell — stressed that the University is working to address sexual violence on campus.
“All members of the Stanford campus community have the right to live and work and study in a safe and respectful environment,” Drell said during the rally.
Take Back the Night gave people an opportunity to think about how to make that goal a reality.
“The world would be a better place if we allowed and activated more space for healing and for supporting one another,” Nilson said. “That is such a beautiful lesson for students to both teach and learn together. So I want to see Take Back the Night happen every year.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated this was ‘Sexual Awareness Month’ instead of ‘Sexual Assault Month.’ The Daily regrets this error.
Contact Adesuwa Agbonile at adesuwaa ‘at’ stanford.edu.