Thursday night, Penn’s campus will come together to speak out against sexual violence.
An international event that started in Philadelphia in 1975, Take Back The Night will take place at Penn for the third time this year.
Take Back The Night begins with a rally and march on College Green, followed by a candlelight vigil at Wynn Commons where sexual assault survivors will share their personal stories with the crowd. The event hopes to “raise awareness and start a dialogue” about the presence of sexual and dating violence on college campuses, College senior and coordinator Liat Fleming-Shemer said.
Sexual violence is often something “people gloss over, and it’s a really uncomfortable thing for people to talk about,” Shemer added.
Take Back The Night aims to “unify campus and create an environment that is safe for survivors,” College junior and coordinator Joseph Lawless said.
This year in particular, the event emphasizes that “sexual violence transcends gender, identity and status,” College senior and Undergraduate Assembly President Matt Amalfitano wrote in an email.
The speaker will be Gary Cuccia, a Greensburg, Pa., native whose daughter was murdered by her ex-boyfriend one day after her 16th birthday in 2007. Amalfitano, a member of One in Four — Penn’s all-male sexual assault peer-education group — wrote that he hopes the presence of a male anti-violence advocate at the event will “inspire other men to be involved with these issues.”
One in Four derives its name from the statistic that 25 percent of college women will experience some form of sexual violence before they graduate.
While such violence is “something that disproportionately affects women,” Shemer said, the statistic of ‘one in four’ in heterosexual relationships does not fully convey the reality of sexual violence, Lawless said.
“There’s so much more work to be done in this area, like looking at what causes the violence,” he added.
Given the progress still to be made in understanding sexual violence, it is crucial that advocates “have a persistent voice on campus,” College senior and Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Chairwoman Rebecca Reicherter wrote in an email.
Take Back The Night occurs each year to inform new members of the Penn community that they can “make a difference and decrease the incidence of sexual and domestic abuse on campus.”
The event “was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had at Penn,” College junior Meg Hlousek said.
“My dream for the world is that you don’t have to worry about what time you’re leaving somewhere,” Hlousek added. “Everyone should be able to do what they want, when they want, without the fear of their bodies being attacked.”
For other students, Take Back The Night is a way to show support for family members and friends who have been affected by domestic or sexual violence.
“It was always something I felt strongly about growing up,” said Wharton sophomore Morgan Humphrey, the vice president of curriculum and training for ASAP. Witnessing members of her family deal with issues of domestic violence has inspired her involvement with advocacy at Penn.
“I knew I wanted to promote sexual violence education to make this world a better and safer place for my little sisters,” Amalfitano wrote of his three younger sisters.
The unity fostered through the stories shared at Take Back The Night, Lawless said, “bolsters and enriches the narrative of the entire campus community.”