With dancing and lively music, students participating in Take Back the Night, an annual weeklong program designed to promote sexual respect, toured their way through Yale’s campus in a floating dance party last Friday.
Since its debut in the mid-1980s, Take Back the Night has engaged students in dialogue about campus sexual climate, hosting speak-out gatherings and interfaith conversations. Organized by the Communication and Consent Educators, Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale and the Women’s Center, the weeklong program brought together a coalition of different communities, from Greek organizations to graduate students, athletes and advocacy groups.
“It’s about celebrating sexual respect, healthy sexual encounters and reaching all the corners of our community to get as much student involvement as possible,” said Anna McNeil ’20, a representative of USAY who served on the planning board for Take Back the Night.
The nearly dozen events this year aimed at both educating students and fostering solidarity. The week’s events varied from workshops focused on strategies for building respectful cultures and positive communication skills, to book coloring and campus chalking.
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90 said Take Back the Night has expanded since she worked on it as a student 30 years ago, as it now allows much broader community participation. She added that the variety of events — including a yoga class, an improv workshop and a Saturday brunch — catered to the diverse needs of survivors and their supporters.
This year’s Take Back the Night attracted a wide range of co-sponsors, from a cappella groups to campus publications to cultural centers. Jasmyne Pierre ’20, the outreach coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center, said having more than 50 co-sponsors allowed the event to reach many campus communities and demonstrate schoolwide support for combating sexual violence.
An afternoon speak-out session, a central part of the program since its early days, drew a crowd of around 100 people to Woolsey Rotunda on Friday. Students, New Haven residents and Yale affiliates shared their personal experiences with sexual assault as well as stories about handling situations in which friends and loved ones were assaulted.
Although the speak-out started as a platform in which sexual assault survivors can share firsthand accounts, McNeil said the current format encourages participants to express themselves in various ways including poetry and songs.
“I think experiencing assault is often incredibly isolating, and certainly disempowering,” said Lindsey Hogg ’17, a board member of USAY. “It can feel like an act of resistance to claim that story publicly and witness the solidarity with other members of the community.”
The floating dance party, which took place on the evening after the speak-out, was designed as an opportunity for participants to destress and unwind after what might have been an emotionally exhausting week, McNeil said. By moving their bodies with “confidence, ease and excitement,” students are reminded that the campus belongs to them, she added.
“The experience brings people closer and is part of our conception of Tack Back The Night not just focusing on experiences of sexual violence,” Pierce said. “Self-care and positivity are important parts of our ideal campus culture.”
Take Back the Night ran from April 4 to 9.