Yale’s annual Take Back the Night will end on April 20 after a week of events designed to provoke communitywide reflection on Yale’s sexual culture and foster a positive sexual climate on campus.
An event that aims to fight sexual misconduct on college campuses, Take Back the Night is held each year at universities around the world. At Yale, the Women’s Center, the Communication and Consent Educators and United Against Sexual Assault at Yale organize the event.
Historically, the event has centered on the Speak Out, an open mic event that invites members of the Yale community to come together and empower survivors of sexual violence or anyone else who chooses to share a story. While this is the most well-known aspect of Take Back the Night at Yale, the week features a variety of events including writing letters to incarcerated women, workshops on topics related to the sexual climate on campuses, yoga, meditation and chalking on Cross Campus. The wide range of events demonstrates that there is no one way to experience or share stories of sexual violence and misconduct, according to Abby Leonard ’21, co-president of USAY.
A few dozen students came to the Speak Out — which took place on Cross Campus Friday afternoon — to support the people who shared their experiences and join the community in working to create a positive sexual environment on campus. Leonard was involved in planning this year’s Take Back the Night and emphasized the importance of the Speak Out event.
“The point of [Speak Out] is not to be performative — it’s supposed to show the massive effect that sexual assault has on our campus and the different ways in which it affects us all,” Leonard said.
Sexual assault at Yale has made headlines in recent months, with national outlets like Business Insider and The New York Times covering a string of allegations tied to the Yale chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the rape trial of former Yale student Saifullah Khan.
Asked about how Take Back the Night is working to reflect on and address the recent controversies, Leonard highlighted the importance of including all Yale students in the week’s events, saying USAY has aimed this year to bring the whole Yale community together and to make sure that Take Back the Night’s events address the various aspects of sexual assault. She said there are many different ways that the community can be involved in working to create a positive sexual culture at Yale, which is why such a wide variety of events are occurring this week.
Eamonn Smith ’21 said that every aspect of this year’s Take Back the Night is important — but that the Speak Out was particularly moving.
“I thought [Speak Out] was a very brave and powerful concept,” he said. “For a survivor of sexual violence to share their stories to a crowd of friends and strangers is a very difficult and powerful thing to do. I was not surprised to see the amount of support and love shown by those in attendance to the speakers.”
A schedule of events for the remainder of Take Back the Night can be found on USAY’s Facebook page. The week’s remaining events include a workshop on how to support a friend who is a victim of sexual violence, a conversation about storytelling and religious community support, an interactive workshop on how to build a positive sexual culture on campus and a guided meditation.
The first Take Back the Night event was held in 1975.
Caroline Moore | email@example.com