Annual Take Back the Night event aims to support sexual assault survivors

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Students, community members and sexual violence resource groups gathered on Sproul Plaza on Wednesday evening for the annual Take Back the Night, or TBTN, event to promote sexual violence awareness and empower survivors.

The event was sponsored by the ASUC and the campus Gender Equity Resource Center, also known as GenEq. Its lineup included musical performances, spoken word poetry and speeches. In accordance with traditional TBTN style, these artistic means were utilized to communicate stories of sexual violence, harassment and abuse.

The moderators transitioned each performance by announcing grave statistics related to sexual assault in order to highlight the ways in which it affects different groups.

“I think (TBTN) brings visibility and gives survivors a voice and a platform that they wouldn’t have otherwise had,” said campus senior Taylor Evans, an intern at GenEq who led this year’s event.

Campus senior Louise Tan, a volunteer for the event, said last year’s TBTN was the first time she spoke publicly about her sexual assault experience, adding that it helped her cope with the trauma.

“Telling stories is part of healing,” Tan said. “This is a chance for you tell your truth which the statistics cannot capture.”

The event began with a faculty keynote address by assistant professor in the campus history department Stephanie Jones-Rogers, who discussed how sexual violence affects groups differently based on racial, sexual and gender identity. She also noted that sexual violence against males is regularly trivialized, as it is often portrayed comically.

By exposing students to powerful stories, TBTN allows the larger Berkeley community to show solidarity with survivors, said Nitisha Baronia, campus sophomore and grievance policy coordinator in the ASUC Student Advocate’s Office.

Joseph Greenwell, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, who attended the event, noted that the campus administration has a great deal more to accomplish with regard to preventing sexual assault.

Multiple students voiced their disappointment with the continued prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus.

“We say we have a zero tolerance policy. Where is that?” said former ASUC senator Haley Broder about the campus’s handling of such cases.

Niveen Rizkalla, a campus postdoctoral research fellow at the Mack Center for Mental Health and Social Conflict, said she saw TBTN as a courageous event whose use of artistic methods could serve to ease difficult discussions about sexual assault. She noted, however, that the event could be improved by incorporating more discussions as well as health professionals, who could provide information on physical well-being for sexual assault survivors.

Sebastian Agramont-Justiniano, a campus junior who attended the event, said he did not believe that TBTN would have the capacity to reverse the thinking of those who do not already support victims of sexual assault. Agramont-Justiniano added, however, that it had the potential to catch the attention of sympathetic passersby and encourage them to become advocates.

“It’s empowering for the students and it’s a wonderful event that they put on for the community,” said Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs.

Contact Anna Dell’Amico at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adellamico_dc.