‘Take Back the Night,’ with changes, to be held April 26

by Elizabeth Janowski | 4/19/19 2:10am

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As part of the annual Night of Reflection, the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault has asked Greek houses to close their social spaces on April 26. 

by Adrian Russian / The Dartmouth

In an effort to initiate a campus-wide discussion on sexual violence, the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault will lead the College’s annual Take Back the Night March and Night of Reflection on the evening of April 26. These events will serve as the final scheduled activities for this year’s Sexual Assault Action Month, previously known as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

Benjamin Bradley, the assistant director for violence prevention at the Student Wellness Center, stressed the significance of the program’s shift in focus from sexual violence awareness to action.

“Action can take a lot of different forms, from … learning about experiences of survivors, to actively checking or stepping in when seeing potential harmful behavior, and much more,” Bradley wrote in an email statement. 

He added that this month, students can request informational and skill-building programs focused on sexual violence prevention through the Student Wellness Center. He expressed hope that every Dartmouth student “can contribute to preventing sexual violence by taking action.” 

According to 2018-19 SPCSA executive chair Paulina Calcaterra ’19, Dartmouth students began organizing an on-campus iteration of the march in recent years, with the Student Wellness Center assisting in its coordination. This year, Calcaterra said that supervision over the march transitioned from the Student Wellness Center to the SPCSA. 

The Student Wellness Center decided to stop supervising the march due to a shift its in its organizational goals, according to Calcaterra.

Bradley stressed that the Student Wellness Center will continue to support the SPCSA in its endeavors this year.

“SPCSA takes really important action in many different ways, both in preventing sexual violence and supporting survivors,” Bradley wrote. “Take Back the Night has always been and continues to be about our community coming together to recognize the violence that survivors face and rally around them.” 

The march will convene at 4 p.m. on the Collis Center patio, where students will have the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the issue of sexual violence on campus. The students will then march around campus before ending at the Green, where they plan to chant, hold posters and make closing remarks. 

“We want this to be as unapologetic as people want it to be,” Calcaterra said. “We want this to be a space for people to say whatever they want to say.”

Following the march, the SPCSA will host a debrief discussion on the third floor of Collis. Calcaterra said that the post-march conversation will allow students who were either unable to attend or do not feel comfortable attending the march to engage in discussions around the topics of sexual assault awareness and prevention.

2019-20 SPCSA executive chair Anne Pinkney ’20 stressed the importance of having events such as the Take Back the Night march and the Night of Reflection on Dartmouth’s campus.

“Events like these have a lasting impact on campus because they provide survivors with a space not only where they can feel safe and show up in solidarity for other survivors, but also where allies or people who are interested can show solidarity for this type of crisis,” Pinkney said.

An additional change to this year’s programming will be seen in the structure and purpose of the Night of Reflection, known last year as the Night of Solidarity. Citing concerns about the authenticity of Greek spaces’ engagement during last year’s events, SPCSA has encouraged Greek houses to close on the night of April 26 in order to hold private, internal discussions, according to Calcaterra.

“The whole idea this year was for the night to be really internal, because last year it was very triggering for some people to see Greek houses emailing that they stand with survivors,” Calcaterra said. “I think this year it’s less about performativity and public credit and more about offering opportunities and resources to engage if people want to.”

For students who do not belong to a Greek organization, SPCSA will host a film screening and reflection pertaining to the topic of sexual violence. Additionally, a separate self-care night event will take place in Sarner Underground, which Calcaterra hopes will offer a “healing space” for students.

Calcaterra emphasized the importance of Take Back the Night as a platform to uplift and empower marginalized voices on Dartmouth’s campus. At the same time, she acknowledged that the march may not be accessible to or representative of all survivors of sexual assault on campus. She said she hopes that in future years, the evening’s programming will see engagement from students who come from a wider array of backgrounds and experiences.

“I wish ideally that we could have more representation in the groups planning these kinds of marches and that we could make people feel seen going to them,” Calcaterra said. “There’s lots of other people doing informal work in their own communities that we would love to be able to highlight and give a platform to.”