Take Back The Night: Shatter the silence, stop the violence
Posted on May 5, 2013 by Patricia Colli
On April 25th, I attended my first Take Back The Night (TBTN) event in Philadelphia. A girlfriend of mine had told me about this event and it was right up my alley – a great community event for Beutiful and its message really resonated with me. Take Back The Night is an international call to communities to take a stand against domestic and sexual violence. Before I was guided to this event by a friend, I hadn’t heard of TBTN. So here’s some history: The first documented Take Back The Night event in the United States took place in October of 1975 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Citizens rallied together after the murder of young microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth, who was stabbed to death by a stranger no more than a block away from her home while walking the streets, alone. In 1999, Katie Koestner led the initiative to establish international headquarters and create a 501(c)3 foundation with others who supported TBTN. Katie Koestner was the first woman to speak out nationally and publicly about date rape and has personally spoken at over 400 Take Back the Night events throughout North America. The goal of TBTN is to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence for women AND men. The aim is to create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives.
I wish I had known years earlier about TBTN – because I would have loved to participate in more and attract more people to the cause. At this particular TBTN in Philly, supporters marched from four different locations (22nd and Spring Garden Streets, 21st and Washington Avenue, 13th and Locust Streets, 34th and Chestnut Streets) toward the First Unitarian Church while chanting anti-assault and pro-safety messages and holding signs. I had never been involved in a rally before so it was really exciting! It was great to see bystanders responding and supporting either on the sidewalks as we walked by or honking from their cars in support. Once at the First Unitarian Church, we were met by the other locations. The Philadelphia police were kind enough to block the street off so that we could go into the street to watch a presentation on rape myths. Organizers spoke about the event and sexual violence before calling everyone inside the church for the storytelling/sharing part of the protest. The speak out was open to men and women, straight or GLBTQ who are survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence; and their allies. There was a microphone at the front of the room and anyone was free to speak about their experience in living with and surviving violence, abuse and oppression. This part of the event was particularly moving and difficult for me…I was literally in tears when attendees were sharing their stories. I was so amazed by their strength, and upset that we live in a world where things like rape and violence are not uncommon. I was also dealing with my own reactions that were surfacing, coming to terms that I had been in sexual situations in past relationships that were not completely consensual. Many people have stories like this. This is not an unrelateable subject. One thing I was very pleasantly surprised about was the number of men who were speaking up and sharing their stories. I thought this was amazing – sexual violence is not something many men are willing to talk about – I was so thankful to the strong men that supported and participated. This really helps spread awareness and break the stigma that only “certain people” can get raped and only “certain people” can be rapists. Sexual violence is an epidemic and can happen to anyone…and it is not the victim’s responsibility to prevent the violence, nor is it their fault. After the story segment, there was a candlelight vigil to remember those still fighting, those lost to violence, and those surviving. I unfortunately had to leave the event before the vigil, but I’m sure it was lovely. I’m glad I had the opportunity to take some photos and short video footage. I would like to thank the organizers for creating such a great event and I hope to be able to promote and attend more TBTN events in the near future! Please enjoy the short video and pictures we took of the event!
If you’re in Philly, you can follow TBTN Philly on twitter!
Patricia Colli, Editor of Beutiful Magazine, is a human rights activist, equality advocate, and promoter of health, acceptance and wellbeing. Having experienced disordered eating, unhealthy exercise patterns and poor body image, she is especially passionate about shedding light on eating disorders and the power of body acceptance.