“Run, Susan, Run, can’t you feel it, the evening makes angry demands,
take back the night, to walk the streets when we choose,
take back the night, and make it safe for everyone to use…
….now out on the street there’s a service, with thousands of candles for light,
arm in arm, women are marching, with men, they sing take back the night”
~Holly Near, performed with Ronnie Gilbert, Jeff Langley, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger
BY Lori Palmeri
The official Take Back the Night website reports that one in three women and one in six men, worldwide, experience some form of sexual violence; less than fifty percent of victims report these crimes. “No one should fear the night . . . or the day. Shatter the Silence. Stop the Violence..” (takebackthenight.org)
Officer Joe Nichols, of the Oshkosh Police Department, reports 368 domestic disturbance reports, so far in 2015, not including sexual assault reports. While men are more frequently reporting such incidents, women still far outweigh reports of domestic disturbances or sexual assault.
Think global, act local…
Details for the Fox Valley Take Back the Night rally in Oshkosh include a collaboration between Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services, REACH Counseling Services, University of Oshkosh Counseling Center, and CARE agencies to present the 25th annual Take Back the Night rally and march, held on Wednesday, October 7th beginning at 5:30 PM at the Alumni Center, 625 Pearl Avenue, on the UW Oshkosh campus. Opening ceremonies included informational booths and activities to promote awareness of resources in our community, and conclude with a survivor guest speaker.
Following the rally, the march begins on Pearl Street, looping back to Reeve Union via Division Street and Algoma Boulevard, pausing for silence at the Christine Ann shelter. Returning to Reeve Union, the focus turns to the special art exhibit, Never Silent, in Steinhilber Gallery. Artist Michael Wartgow will be showcased, in addition to art by survivors and their advocates.
In addition to an emergency shelter and a 24-hour hotline, Christine Ann also provides one-on-one advocacy, support groups, legal advocacy, services for adult females and males, children and teens, as well as community outreach and prevention education. Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services can be found on the web at www.christineann.net and on Facebook. Locally, the phone number is 920-235-5998 and toll free, 1-800-261-5998.
While the statistics of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are staggering, a global movement since the 1970’s has worked towards decreasing these numbers through rallies and marches and public awareness. Here in the U.S., women’s movement activist Anne Pride coined the phrase in 1977, at a Pittsburg Take Back the Night march. Today the event in the Fox Valley supports women and men who have experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault.
Historically, women faced the anxiety of walking alone at night and that is why Take Back the Night began. Early events focused on unsafe streets, cities and campuses and then as a protest to pornography and the degradation of women and sexuality. Today, events highlight the problem of violence against women as well as the broader issues of sexual violence: sexual assault, rape, dating violence, sexual abuse, domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment, child abuse, internet harassment and other unhealthy relationships. Take Back the Night fights to end child prostitution and worldwide sexually related crimes.
While researching her book, RAPE ON THE PUBLIC AGENDA: FEMINISM AND THE POLITICS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, Northeastern Univ. Press, 2000, Minnesota State University Professor, Maria Bevacqua, found the phrase may have been used earlier.
She said, “…the idea of ‘taking back the night’ goes back further. For example, in the 1971 pamphlet ‘Stop Rape’ by Detroit Women Against Rape, the authors suggest that women ‘reinstate the evening walk,’ a kind of feminist patrol of the streets enacted in resistance to women’s unwritten exclusion from the public sphere after dark.” In addition, in 1975, in celebration of Women’s Equality Day (Aug. 26), National Organization of Women (NOW) called for members of its chapters across the country to engage in protests and actions in the streets at night. They viewed this as a form of resistance to women’s victimization. These symbolic reclaimings of the streets and the night bear striking resemblance to what has come to be called “Take Back the Night.”
Some report the first TBTN event took place in 1976, in Brussels, Belgium, during The International Tribunal on Crimes against Women that around 2000 women from over 40 countries claimed the streets for a candlelight procession. Later that year, Reclaim the Night was organized in Rome, Italy after an especially brutal rape had occurred… there had been 16,000 reported rapes. The movement went to West Germany in 1977, where women had to fear sexual assaults at any moment, and were demanding “the right to move freely in their communities at day and night without harassment and sexual assault.”
That same year Leeds in England joined the movement. The town is famous for “Jack the Ripper,” who at the end of the 19th Century killed at least five prostitutes a night. In 1975 the “Yorkshire Ripper,” Peter Sutcliff, appeared in Leeds, again killing prostitutes. As a result, the police encouraged women to stay inside at night for their own safety and so the women of Leeds started to take action.
Also in 1977, the movement hopped across the pond, reaching the US, where Anne Pride, NOW activist and publisher, reportedly first introduced the slogan Take Back the Night during an anti-violence rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Activisim, Art, Politics coalesce…
Further, on November 4,1978 the Women Against Violence Against Women (WAWAV) national conference in San Francisco, “Feminist Perspectives on Pornography” staged a Take Back the Night March through the Broadway porn district with over 3,000 women attending. The conference led to the publication of Take Back the Night (Laura Lederer, ed. 1980), a book of readings by antipornography feminists. Holly Near performed the song “Fight Back.” That same year, Australia, Canada and India joined extending the global reach of the movement.
Visual and Performance artist, Suzanne Lacy, along with Labowitz “shaped the [then] emergent art of social engagement.” Her description of the 1978 march is different than some people might expect, involving performers and audience members,
“This project was part of a general intention to integrate artists and activists that characterized feminist performance art in the 1970s. The first national ‘Perspectives in Pornography’ conference was an important opportunity to include women visual artists in political organizing. Ariadne: A Social Art Network co-created by Lacy and Labowitz curated a series of interventions with artists from around the state. Events, performances, and exhibitions for the conference were produced by Motion, a San Francisco performance collective that organized a panel of female eroticism and art and created rituals to open and close the conference
Lacy and Labowitz created their own work, a mass public performance for 3000 women marchers who left the conference and marched toward San Francisco’s pornography district…”
Men join the movement…
In the early decades of the movement to end violence against women, controversy over whether men should be allowed to participate led to various restrictions on how and when men could participate. By the 1990’s, attitudes changed. According to an archived listserv discussion group among academics, said Linda Tessier…”discussion of men and TBTN has changed shape so many times…from my point of view the women only marches were not remotely about exclusion of anybody. The idea was that women were going to TAKE BACK the night…the marches were a response to the carefully drilled messages with which we grew up–a woman should never go out at night without the protection of a man. So the idea was that if women marched as a group they could be out at night (in the street, in fact) all by themselves…”
Since the 1970’s, Take Back The Night events have been held by college and university women’s centers, YWCA’s, rape crisis centers, community centers, high school student groups, battered women’s shelters and other organizations dedicated to helping women achieve safety and empowerment. Events have been held in England, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Caribbean Islands, U.S. and likely other corners of the globe.
Men support survivors at many events. Most events involve candlelight vigils, speak outs, marches and rallies in order to raise awareness about sexual violence. Some events involve only women, but as more men voice their own stories of sexual abuse, most events are coed efforts to raise awareness and promote healing. All events strive to bring awareness to the problem of sexual violence and support those who have been victimized.
In an interview with Fran X, an advocate for Christine Ann, she emphasized the services provided by Christine Ann do not exclude men; they support anyone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. As a matter of fact, you might be surprised to learn the domestic abuse shelter can provide safe off-site housing for men, as well as women and children. However, the numbers of men reporting such incidents are far outweighed by women and therefore the current campus is unable to fund an adult male on-site housing at this time. She also shared that the TBTN event has had over 300 participants in recent years, friends and families included supporting and raising awareness that it is ok to get help, there is someone who will listen and there are resources that were not available in the 1970s.
Additionally, Fran explained how Christine Ann was involved in recent legislative efforts that lobbied to include recent changes, allowing court documents to be “blinded” to addresses and names of victims.
UWO’s Campus Awareness and Relationship Education program (CARE) includes a call to action for the community:
“We use this night as part of our efforts to raise awareness, to spotlight allies, support survivors and remember those lost to violence. We will also encourage all who join us to make ending domestic and sexual violence a lifelong commitment.”
Details of the Event & Schedule Follows:
Never Silent: Survivor Art Exhibition
Gail Floether Steinhilber Art Gallery (3rd Floor Reeve Memorial Union)
Opens Oct. 5, 2015 – Closes Oct. 10, 2015
2015 Fox Valley Take Back the Night Events:
Oct. 7, 2015 at 5:30 p.m., Fair and Activities @ Reeve Ballroom
We will have tables set up so you can learn more about healthy relationships, sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, victim advocacy, restraining orders and SANE exams. Stop by the resource tables from campus offices/organizations and community agencies throughout the Fox Valley.
6 p.m., Rally & Survivor Speaker @ Alumni Center and Welcome Center
6:45 p.m., March from Alumni Center to Reeve, stopping at Christine Ann
7:15 p.m., Reception and Never Silent Exhibition
Gail Floether Steinhilber Art Gallery (3rd floor Reeve Memorial Union)
Art can be a powerful way of expressing what words don’t fully describe. The TBTN Survivor Exhibition will be open for viewing from Oct. 5-10, 2015.
The evening concludes with inspiration to keep the community mission of ending domestic and sexual violence at the forefront all year long. Please join us for the opening reception of the Never Silent art exhibit.