On May 7, Kalamazoo College hosted its annual Take Back The Night event, which was cosponsored by S3A (Sexual Safety and Support Alliance) and P.O.W.E.R. (Progressive Organization of Women Engaged in Revolution). This event is a worldwide direct action that emerged in the 1970s against rape, intimate partner violence, and other forms of sexual violence and assault.
The night started off with a “Speak Out,” during which nine speakers spoke about their personal experiences and/or second hand accounts of sexual violence. Then, the event separated according to gender and while the men were in a discussion, the women went on a march along West Main to the Intramural Fields. While at the fields, all the women gathered in a candle lit circle where they were free to share any experiences they have had with sexual assault.
“Every year we have seen an increasing number of students attending all parts of the event, and this year was no exception. I also feel that this year the stories that were shared represented a wider variety of experiences than we have had in the past,” said Lindsey Koening ’14, one of the co-leaders of P.O.W.E.R and a member of S3A.
Take Back The Night planning starts as early as winter quarter, and takes up much of the time during P.O.W.E.R. meetings.
“Planning for Take Back the Night is extremely extensive. Most of the time in our meetings leading up to TBTN was devoted to planning for the event, and getting people to volunteer for tasks regarding the event (advertising, tabling, etc.),” said Emaline Lapinski ’15, another co-leader of P.O.W.E.R. “As one of the co-leaders, and I’m sure Lindsey can attest to this, planning for the event takes up a lot of our free time outside classes.”
Both Lindsey and Emaline have been attending the event since their freshman year and believe that it is very beneficial to K because sexual violence is an important issue that is prevalent on college campuses. It also gives a voice to an issue that is usually silent.
“Many people still do not know if their experiences can ‘count’ as a ‘legitimate’ form of assault, and our event helps clear the confusion up within the student body,” Lapinski said.
“I also feel like the separate male and female discussions about rape and rape culture educate our student body about what these things can look like, as well as what can be done to stop it. I know for a lot of women, the event is therapeutic for them, and provides a safe space for their stories to be told.”
Both leaders find the event to be very important. According to Emaline, even though she is not a survivor of sexual assault or rape, the event is important because “as a feminist, [she] feels that destroying rape culture will move our society forward.”
“Although heartbreaking, every year this event not only revitalizes my drive to help survivors as a career, but it reestablishes that intimate partner violence and sexual assault need to be talked about and that the culture that we live in needs to change,” Koening concluded.