In a display of support for awareness of rape and sexual violence, about 100 Yale students gathered at the Women’s Table on Cross Campus to participate in a march and rally Thursday night.
The Take Back the Night event was part of an awareness week organized by the group Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP). RSVP co-coordinator Sunny Kim ’06 said the success of this year’s rally after a period of decline in previous years is due to the efforts of RSVP members who began work on the rally at the beginning of second semester.
RSVP co-coordinator Kathryn Johnson ’06 said the group hoped the rally would counter the perception that rape doesn’t occur within what they perceive as being a tight-knit community. She also said the event reveals to survivors the support of their fellow students.
“We need to show women who need support that it’s here,” she said.
The rally featured performances by the a cappella groups Something Extra and Tangled Up in Blue, as well as dramatic and testimonial readings and speakers, one of which was Stephanie Urie DIV ’02.
Urie filed a lawsuit against the University in January for allegedly failing to protect her after she accused a professor of sexual abuse in 2002.
Urie said another example of Yale’s shortcomings with respect to handling sexual abuse issues is Yale alumnus Naomi Wolf ’84, who published a February article for New York magazine in which she accused humanities and English professor Harold Bloom of sexually harassing her when she was an undergraduate.
“What we demand, and what we’re working together with Yale to do, is for Yale to increase its support systems for survivors and punish offenders,” Johnson said.
The other speakers broadened the scope of the rally’s focus. Josiah Brown, a board member of the Domestic Violence Services of New Haven, directed his comments to the male audience members present, who were “clearly among the minority,” he said.
“We men have to do more to ensure that other men and boys respect women,” he said. “Would-be offenders have to know they won’t be tolerated. It’s a personal, cultural and social challenge.”
Susan Marine, director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Harvard University, urged students to dispel the “demeaning” notions of many of their peers that rape in college is simply a consequence of alcohol use or miscommunication.
“Take the chance to talk to your peers and [tell them] that rape is a violation, a crime, and a desecration of a person’s body and spirit,” she said.
The speeches were followed by a reading of testimonials from Yale students recounting stories of sexual abuse, after which audience members could share their own thoughts and experiences. Then female participants in the rally embarked on a march that took them from Elm Street to College Street and back to the Women’s Table.
Men are traditionally excluded from the march but are always encouraged to show their support at the rally, Kim said.
In addition to the march and rally, RSVP organized the Clothesline Project — an array of multicolored T-shirts displayed beside the Women’s Table featuring messages written by a variety of women, survivors and non-survivors alike — and held a “speak out” from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Wednesday, during which students read statistics, poems and articles on the subject of rape.