As early as the 1970s, Take Back the Night has received global attention and support throughout communities and college campuses: now considered a world wide tradition of dedicating an evening for women and men to raise awareness about rape, domestic violence, violence against women and violence against children.
The Student Women’s Association is in charge of the event, cosponsored with Students for a Safe Campus and the Safe Campus Project that is being held tonight at 6 p.m. on the steps of Fogler Library.
Speakers, survivor testimonies, music performed by Renaissance, a candlelight vigil and a march around campus, after which refreshments will be offered, are planned for the annual rally at UMaine.
This week is Rape Awareness week and April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.
Take Back the Night’s origins are a bit hazy, there are a few theories about how the event got its name and where the first rally was held. Many accounts agree that the event started in Western Europe in 1973 when there was a sudden increase in rape and violence during that time. In 1976, women attending the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women held a candlelight vigil and a march to make their point. A few years later a rally was held in England in response to a series of rapes and murders by a man dubbed the “Wearside Jack.”
All accounts agree that Take Back the Night came to the United States in 1978 in San Francisco when women protesting pornography first used the slogan. The movement continued to grow from there, spreading to communities and college campuses nationwide.
Traditionally, the event is held in mid-to-late April: a throwback to an early Christian holiday called Walpurgisnacht. The holiday was named after Saint Walpurga who wished to make people aware of the need for “protection against witches,” according to SWA member Jamie Roper, but the holiday only fueled the distrust and discrimination against women during that time.
Everyone is encouraged to participate in the rally.
Amy Blackstone, assistant professor in the department of sociology, who will be speaking at the rally, says that it is important for men and women to work together to make rape a thing of the past – something that Students for a Safe Campus, the group she advises, has been successful in doing.
“The university is relatively safe, but we’re part of a larger culture that still allows rape to happen. We’re not isolated,” said Blackstone. “The goal is to promote positive, healthy relationships between the genders.”