New Article: “Take Back the Night: The Most Important Night of the Year”

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Take Back the Night is an annual event against sexual violence happening tonight at Cal State LA. This article was published yesterday in Cal State LA’s University Times: Take Back the Night: The Most Important Night of the Year.

Students will gather on Wednesday, April 26, to say “no” to sexual violence and “yes” to consent.

When Katie Koestner went to college, she never imagined that she’d soon be on the cover of Time Magazine for sparking a national debate about sexual assault on college campuses—but that’s exactly what happened. It was 1990 and Katie left her hometown Temecula (80 miles southeast of Cal State LA) to go to the College of William & Mary in Virginia. She started dating a handsome guy who seemed smart and charming. One night after they had gone out to dinner, she invited him into her residence hall to keep hanging out. The possibility of getting raped didn’t even cross her mind—but her date had other plans. Last year in an interview with the BBC, she recounted that night: “I kept saying ‘No,’ and ‘Please get off.’ And he kept saying, ‘Calm down, everything’s going to be fine,’ and that was the moment when I lost my virginity against my will.”

Even though her family and friends turned against her, and her dean told her she should consider dating him anyway because they made such a “nice couple,” she decided to report it to the police. She knew she wasn’t his first victim and may not be the last. Her That decision led to a national conversation about “date rape,” a term that is both good and bad. On one hand, it’s good that people recognize that rape happens in seemingly safe spaces and that an aggressor can be a person who the victim trusts, admires and even loves. On the other hand, putting “date” in front of “rape” has a tendency to lessen the crime and the trauma it inflicts. As an advocate for sexual assault victims once told me: “We don’t put “date” in front of “murder”: murder is murder and the same is true of rape.

Katie went on to found the nonprofit Take Back the Night, which seeks to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence. College campuses across the country host events under the same name every year, which offer a space to destigmatize sexual assault, give voice to victims and educate allies.

Cal State LA’s annual Take Back the Night event is this Wednesday at 6PM in the U-SU Plaza. The Cal State LA Choir will kick things off by singing the a cappella song “I Can’t Keep Quiet,” which has been coined the anthem of the Women’s March. There will be spoken word artists, a keynote by Shaunelle Curry, giveaways including self-care packages by Mujeres de Maiz, and a performance by the Xicana music collective In Lak Ech.

The event coincides with Denim Day, a sexual violence prevention and education campaign. The globally-recognized event started in the late ’90s after the Italian Supreme Court ruled that a woman must have helped her assailant because her jeans were so tight. On this day, wearing demin makes a statement that no matter what a person wears, they’re not asking to be attacked.

Take Back the Night and events like it are crucial given one in five women on college campuses will experience sexual assault and even more will be a victim to predatory behavior such as cat calling. This doesn’t include the number of men, transgender and gender nonconforming people who will experience sexual violence.

Take Back the Night is the most important night of the year. What could be more important than saying “no” to sexual assault and “yes” to consent? The right to control one’s body is a fundamental human right. A right that shouldn’t be taken from anyone.

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