Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention at Penn hosted its annual Take Back The Night event on April 6.
The evening included speeches, performances from arts groups, and a march. The event concluded with a survivor’s vigil. In prior years, the rally was held on College Green, but due to concerns regarding weather conditions this year, it was moved indoors into the ARCH building. Regardless, the event saw a packed turnout including students from the various groups sponsoring the event and Greek Life organizations.
Take Back The Night is an international campaign protesting sexual violence that is held across the world.
This year’s Take Back The Night was one of the biggest events since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first that has been in-person and unmasked.
“Over 70% of people at Penn don’t report sexual violence when they experience it,” ASAP chair and College junior Harley Haas said. “[The event] gets the conversation about sexual violence started, because here at Penn, the culture is real.”
Campus resources — including Restorative Practices at Penn, Penn Violence Prevention, and Penn Women’s Center — were present throughout the event to support students.
“It is so powerful for students to know that those resources will be there for them,” Haas said. “That was a very effective part of the event, making it clear [to students] what resources there are and how they can benefit you.”
College first year Helena Saven, who joined ASAP this semester, was part of the planning committee for Take Back The Night, coordinating the various student performance groups and speakers slated for the event.
“The issue of sexual assault is really an issue of safety,” Saven said, “because college is a place you’re supposed to be safe, supported, and take time to discover yourself and explore.”
In addition to planning Take Back the Night, the group is currently working on an app intended to help students navigate campus resources.
“When students do report [sexual assault or violence], it feels like they're bounced around from the source resource. So just having one clear guide, where do you go when you have experienced this scenario … we have been advocating for this for years,” Haas said.
President Liz Magill gave the first speech at the event.
“As a community, we must continue to strive for that future with no sexual or interpersonal violence. We must all do our utmost to make that a reality. And I will say we can never relent on that effort,” Magill said.
Other speakers at the event included activist and writer Fox Holiday and Allison Denmann, who is the clinical director and nurse manager at the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center.
“We can collect evidence, we can provide time sensitive medical care, we can provide resource referrals as a primary interface for survivors who consent to this nature of care,” Denmann said.
“The most powerful thing that you can do is learn how to treat yourself with kindness, with gentleness, with curiosity. Because that is where transformation lives,” Holiday said.
The ARCH was packed for the speaker event and a performance from Penn Dance Company before students marched down Locust Walk and around Walnut Street. The night ended with a survivors’ vigil, where confidential resources were present.
College first year Eva Gonzalez-Whitehouse attended the event as a representative of Penn’s Sailing Team, which was a cosponsor of the event.
“I felt moved by the speakers, the rally, the march, and the survivor vigil. It is amazing that Take Back the Night spreads awareness and empowers others to stand against sexual violence in their community,” Gonzalez-Whitehouse said.
Event planning for Take Back The Night occurs over the course of the entire year. Planning for next year’s event has already begun.
“It’s one thing for administrators to say [resources] are there, and it's another thing to actually have these changes occur,” Haas said. “We really do want our Penn community to do better.”