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From Dina Bass', "No Loss for Words," Fall '99 From Dina Bass', "No Loss for Words," Fall '99Few events have suffered from the as a high a level of bad publicity as Take Back the Night, designed for a cause everyone professes to believe in: rape awareness. Student misconceptions about the event abound, from men who think they will be greeted by a representatives of the Women's Center looking to chop off their testicles to women who believe the event is merely for militant feminists. The bad publicity is not entirely undeserved. Over the years, the program has provoked some controversy. In 1996, a male student used the open-mic "Survivor Speak-Out" to express his remorse for having committed a rape, horrifying survivors attending the event. The following year, SAS graduate student Litty Paxton rose to explain a new policy baring men from speaking -- and succeeded in offending most of the audience. While correct in substance, Paxton's remarks were phrased in the most undiplomatic fashion possible. Last year, however, the program's planners -- the National Organization for Women and Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape -- went out of their way to assure that the program avoided such problems by clearly stating what role they expected male attendees to take and by including male rape survivors in a smaller survivors-only session after the main program. This year, men will not march but will participate in the Speak-Out. As a Take Back the Night attendee for the last two years, I strongly encourage Penn students to attend this year's program. The support you lend to the cause of rape awareness and to Penn's rape survivors is immense and the lessons in strength and courage you can learn from the women who speak are immeasurable. It is a mistake for women to assume that the event is only for militant feminists, lesbians or active members of the Women's Center. If the Justice Department tells us that one in five women is the victim of rape or attempted rape, as women we must continue to speak out against rape and its causes. More importantly, we need to show solidarity for rape victims. For the women who speak at the Survivor Speak-Out, recounting their experiences is both painful and therapeutic, a moment to cry and to show strength. It helps a lot to have a crowd full of women who show sympathy and provide encouragement, even if it is something as simple and silly as clapping and yelling "you go, girl." Take Back the Night is not anti-men. It is anti-rape and anti-rapist, which means that unless you are the type of guy who sees himself as a potential rapist, the event shouldn't threaten you. The other bone of contention with some male students is the fact that event organizers often ask men not to participate either in the Speak-Out or the march. Each year the participation of men in the various parts of the event is re-evaluated, often with different results. Last year men marched but were asked not to speak, this year the men will not march but will be allowed to share their stories as survivors. The exclusion of men from either part of the program asks men to respect the fact that Take Back the Night is an evening celebrating women's voices and the ability to combat rape and support survivors through sisterhood. The same reasoning applies to the decision to ask men to stay behind during the march. The march around campus symbolizes women helping each other conquer dark and threatening areas; having men along reminds women of the unfortunate need for male escorts on the way home. Rape awareness should be an important issue for the men of Penn and not just because your girlfriend wants you to attend. Sadly many men already know this: female rape is not just a female problem. The approximately 300,000 women raped every year in the U.S. have brothers, fathers, husbands, boyfriends and friends. During my first Take Back the Night, a sister from one of several sororities that made pledges attend answered a pledge who asked why they were required to attend. "This is what sisterhood is all about," was the answer. Take Back the Night isn't about politics or gender wars. It's about sisterhood in the face of the appalling reality of rape in America and it's about brotherhood supporting that same cause.

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