Reclaiming The Night

Chalk arrows and positive messages scrawled across the sidewalk informed students and attendees where to go and that  “this is a safe place.” Under a large white tent in the middle of Parker Quad, SUNY New Paltz students gathered for the
annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) event.

This year TBTN took place on Sunday, May 6, from 2 to 7 p.m. and all money raised was donated to Battered Women’s Services in Poughkeepsie N.Y., TBTN club President Karly Fesolowich said.

“Take Back the Night’s purpose is to open up the conversation about our violent culture and to change viewpoints from a victim-blaming standpoint to one in which we are more supportive of survivors,” Fesolowich said. “I know way too many unbelievably strong survivors of violence and the negative experiences they’ve confessed to me …I fight for them.”

The event featured several performances by slam poets and musicians, speeches, T-shirt tie-dyeing and organizations tabling.

Fesolowich said the women contributing to the event all have strong ties to the cause and are advocates for women’s rights, including the two alumna who performed, Sophia Wortzel and Megan Falley.

The T-shirts are designed not only to draw in participants, but to also start conversations every time a shirt is worn, TBTN President-elect Petra Vega said.

This year, Vega said the theme of the shirt was to “unveil the elephant in the room.”

“The problem is that we don’t talk about [abuse] enough or at all, openly with one another,” Vega said. “These issues are things that we usually know happen but we act like they aren’t there by associating the issues with shame, or the idea that it’s taboo and shouldn’t be spoken about.”

Shayna Bentley, who was tabling for her Planned Parenthood Human Service internship, handed out condoms, ribbons and informational pamphlets. She said the event is thought- provoking and needs to be seen on campus.

“In our society, women are extensively taught on how to not get raped and be abused, while men aren’t really taught how to respect us and how to not be abusive/rapists,” Bentley, the Student Association’s council chair, said. “If a group on campus that is comprised of mostly men created a program in conjunction with Take Back the Night titled ‘Give Back the Night’ that was geared toward men, I think it would be really effective.”

Each year, the group starts planning the event at the beginning of the spring semester. TBTN happens toward the end of the school year during Rape and Sexual Assault Awareness Week,Vega said.

Fesolowich said she originally attended TBTN as a part of her Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) course.

“I went to the event and ended up being used as a demonstrator for RAD,” Fesolowich said. “Ever since, I was hooked.”

Fesolowich said that the next year she made sure to become part of the planning committee and soon rose to the
position of president.

Vega said that as president she will be in charge of reaching out to the public and raising awareness for these issues and she is looking forward to working with new people.

“I have so many ideas about reaching out to other orgs on campus in an effort to raise awareness and direct act against the multiple oppressions that foster an environment that make incidents like rape and sexual assault happen such as racism, sexism, stereotypes, gender scripts, homophobia, transphobia, the media,” Vega said. “These are issues that are better tackled with a group of dedicated individuals who seek to make change.”

Maria Jayne