I boycotted Take Back The Night last year.
At other schools I’ve attended, I was a huge supporter of Take Back The Night. The annual rally and march promotes speaking out in fierce opposition to violence against women. It is part of a movement that began in the 1970s, where women demanded “the right to move freely in their communities at day and night without harassment and sexual assault.”
Why would I boycott an event for such a worthy cause? It wasn’t the message, but the implementation. In past years, CSU’s Take Back The Night has been sex-segregated: although the marches eventually converged at the end of the evening, the men’s and women’s “speak-out” portions were entirely separate. I believe that intentionally segregating these sorts of events is symptomatic of a fundamental societal problem regarding the way rape and sexual assaults are confronted.
Too often, men are left out of the solution to the problem of sexual violence. While there is a need and a place for sex-segregated groups in some situations, it must be recognized that while women are overwhelmingly affected by sexual assault, men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators. Therefore, sexual assault is as much a man’s problem as it is a woman’s problem. Just as women must be empowered to stand up against sexual assault, men must be educated to never commit it.
Lesson one is awareness, and lest we forget the staggering scope of the problem, the National College Women Sexual Victimization survey, collected in the year 2000, tells us a college the size of CSU is likely to have over 300 rapes in any given year. One out of 10 college women reports having been raped at some point in their lives. Out of those, 90 percent knew the offenders beforehand. During any given academic year, 2.8 percent of women will experience an attempted or completed rape. And those statistics are for a typical college campus; according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Statistics, the number of forcible rapes reported in Fort Collins is three times the national average.
We can quote the grim statistics until the cows come home, but cold numbers won’t do much to slow the avalanche of sexual assault on college campuses.
The ugly truth is that men are responsible for the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults, and a mere statistic isn’t going to change the way a man behaves or stop him from using a woman as a sexual object against her consent. In order to actually change men’s actions, the fight against sexual assault has to become personal.
Although I like to think that no matter what, I would be one of those men standing up and speaking out against sexual assault and rape, I know for a fact that the reason this issue hits so close to home for me is that I’ve personally heard the stories of women – friends and family – who have been raped and had the courage to tell the tale.
For men, the gender overwhelmingly responsible for these heinous crimes, we need to hear these stories in order to drill into our thick heads the seriousness of it all; we need to be reminded that the statistics we hear are actually the women we pass every day in the halls, sit next to in class, or laugh with at a party. One story can change a man’s attitude about sexual assault for a lifetime and have ripple effects beyond just him.
This year, men and women will speak out together and listen together at Take Back The Night, beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, in the Sculpture Garden outside the Lory Student Center. It’s a welcome change to bring men and women together to confront our common problems, and I commend the Campus Feminist Alliance for taking this step. This year, I’ll be there.
Seth Anthony is a chemistry Ph.D. student. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.