A woman walks alone down a dark, deserted street. With every shadow she sees, and every sound she hears, her pounding heart flutters and skips a beat. She hurries her pace as she sees her destination become closer. She is almost there. She reaches the front door, goes inside, collects herself, and moves on forgetting, at least for tonight, the gripping fear that momentarily enveloped her life.
This scene could have occurred anywhere last night, last year, or even 100 years ago. Historically, women faced the anxiety of walking alone at night and that is why Take Back the Night began.
In Geneva, and indeed on many college campuses all across the country, the city saw—and heard—a group of women (and on some campuses, men) march around town banging pots and pans and chanting about taking back a right to own the night.
In the day that followed, various discussions were held concerning the event. Some of those discussions took place on our social networks. One such discussion blamed the event for causing a distraction in study time Tuesday evening.
I moved this discussion to our classroom today. I wanted the people that were affected by this conflict—those that felt the emotional impact of a TBTN March and those that were standing on the outside, uncertain about what TBTN was—to come together and have a space to converse and hopefully, to learn from each other.
I thought discussion went well today. It was emotional, but not aggressive. I feel both sides were heard and hopefully, both sides walked away thinking about the points each side made. But one 45-minute session on such a deeply embedded topic as sexual abuse and harassment is certainly not enough to break down the barriers that keep us all from recognizing the changes that need to be made on our campus and in our towns where sexual assault is an issue. An entire discourse needs to be created, an ideology relearned.
While I am using this blog post to allow for a safe space to continue our classroom discussion and indeed, to invite anyone to join that is interested, I also encourage the students of Hobart and William Smith Colleges to attend Take Back the Night: The Aftermath on Monday, October 25. This is an open forum in a safe space.
It’s up to you to carry on discussing the issue of sexual assault on our campus. If you want things in your community to change, get up off your ass and make a stand.