S hai O’Rourke ‘13, Krista Shugart ‘15, and Erin McAuliffe ’16 were the leading ladies for the first annual Take Back the Night March and candlelight vigil. “Now is the time to SHATTER THE SILENCE. Now is the time to END THE VIOLENCE. Now is the time to TAKE BACK THE NIGHT.”
In honor of women’s month, the silence about sexual violence against women was shattered in the form of a vigil meant to create an atmosphere of reverence for the survivors who spoke up as well as an atmosphere of respect for the issue.
Inspired by necessity, they decided to speak out about an issue that does not receive enough attention on this campus. “This is an issue that needs to be addressed throughout the entire community. It is not just a women’s problem, and men need to realize that they need to align themselves with an outwardly feminist group,” O’Rourke commented.
A crowd of over 30 people, though mostly female, gathered in Ames circle at 7 p.m. on the night of Saturday, March 23. The event began with a brief speech intended to wake people up and create a sense of unity within the supporters. “Students came together to state and stand together that GMC will not tolerate rape or gender violence,” Shugart said.
“Hey Hey, Ho Ho, The Patriarchy has got to go!” is one of many chants that the group hollered as they made their way toward Bogue, along the dorms, through Withey, and then to the Sage labyrinth. They wanted to be heard so others could feel their presence. Once in a perfect circle, Shugart and O’Rourke distributed tea candles and women shared personal stories, poems, and a moment of silence.
At the closing of the symbolic ceremony, the marchers all signed a large banner reading “Dismantle Rape Culture,” which will be handed over to the administration, who, though notified and invited to participate, did not attend.
According the leaders of this event, the lack of formal authority at the vigil – no staff, no CD’s, no security, no RA’s, no administration at all – proved to demonstrate the continued hush hush nature of rape culture at GMC.
In cases of rape, there is no recourse for the criminal as well as little defense for the survivor. Campus administrators have an obligation to make their campuses a safe place for all students. The National Institute of Justice reports that in “80-90% of sexual assault cases victim and assailant know each other; and the more intimate the relationship, the more likely it is for a rape to be completed.” In such a small community as GMC, safety should be the first priority.
O’Rourke believes that “forcible rape is less of an issue here,” but that the community needs to “confront date rape by furthering education and resources.” GMC’s community lacks support for the survivors (including men); before they are predatorized.
They understand that the Wellness Center is an available option, but then they often feel like the floor just fell out from beneath them. And they blame themselves. “This is indicative of a culture that justifies and naturalizes male sexual aggression and pacifies female sexual freedom,” O’Rourke remarks, “This needs to change.”
GMC is sure to see more outreach initiates in the future to address the lack of accountability and to look at why rape is happening in the first place. This is not a problem we can fix overnight, but by taking back one night at a time, the community will surely strengthen in safety and support. Take Back the Night actions are already in the works for next year.