by RIKKILYNN SHIELDS, Editor
According to RAINN, every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
Every eight minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only six out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.
On Thursday, March 22 in Smith Auditorium, Manhattan College held a fourth annual Take Back The Night event. TBTN is an international event and a non-profit organization whose mission is to completely end any and all forms of sexual, relationship and domestic violence.
Annually, there are hundreds of TBTN events held in over 30 countries. Thanks to Dr. Roksana Badruddoja of the sociology department, Manhattan College has the ability to host one of these important and impactful annual events.
The Take Back The Night committee consists of Brittney Vargas, Eva Pugliese, Ray Stanton, Kayli McTague, David Caiafa and Jordan Pascoe, Ph.D., the committee’s faculty advisor for this past year.
“I first got involved when I took my roots sociology class with Dr. Badruddoja. Her class made me realize the alarming prevalence of sexual violence that occurs everyday and the ways in which society perpetuates sexual assault. I love being on the committee because the people I get to work with are so passionate about the cause. Everyone puts their all in putting the event together and I think it’s because we all really care about this issue and are willing to do anything we can to raise awareness for the issue and show support to survivors,” Pugliese said.
While all of the members of the committee found themselves joining the committee for a variety of reasons, each of the member’s underlying motive inspires them to help promote such an important cause on our campus.
Ray Stanton, a senior communication major got involved with TBTN three years ago. Like Pugliese, this was after taking a class with Dr. Baddrudoja.
“I got involved by taking a class with Dr. Baddrudoja and she asked me if I would be interested in being involved in planning TBTN. Being on the committee has been very fun and exciting. It’s my third year doing it, and I’ve had a great time working with all different kinds of people and seeing new people wanting to get involved. I think Thursday night went well– I don’t think as many people showed up compared to years before, but we had some amazing speakers and great people show up to support our movement,” Stanton said.
Thursday’s event consisted of a variety of speakers, all touching on different parts of the same cause. The first speaker, Jennifer Neal Clark, an adjunct professor of law at Manhattan College and director at Safe Horizon’s in the Bronx, spoke on the legalities of sexual assault.
Clark went into detail defining and describing the Title IX Law, which, according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Under Title IX, the majority of personnel on a college campus are responsible for disclosing your information and reporting it, even if it is told to them in what the victim would claim is confidentiality. According to Title IX, this is in order to uphold Title IX and provide safety for the campus as a whole. Clark expressed the importance of knowing which channels to seek help from.
Clark also discussed the importance of evidence in a sexual assault case, and while she described most victims initial reaction to an assault– wanting to shower, dispose of your clothes, and be done with it. She also expressed the importance of keeping all evidence of abuse because the power is in the victims hands.
Clark continued to touch upon the differences between reporting a sexual assault case in a criminal court versus a family court.
Following Clark’s words, Tiffany French, Assistant Dean of Students and a trainer for the Green Dot Program spoke. According to the Manhattan College website, “Green Dot is a violence prevention program that focuses on making our campus safer by empowering bystanders to become active members in reducing power-based personal violence (sexual assault, partner violence and stalking).”
While resident assistants and other personnel on the Manhattan College campus are required to get Green Dot training, French informed the audience that anyone can become Green Dot certified. If an entire class is interested, a professor can work the training into their syllabus. The program can also organize this training to fit anyone’s schedule.
With over 1,000 people trained already through the Green Dot Program at Manhattan College, the effort to end power-based personal violence puts Manhattan College above the national average of bystander intervention according to the Manhattan College Climate Survey. Anyone can get involved with Green Dot, and all it takes is a simple email of interest.
The next speaker following French was Robert Rivera, who is not only a psychology professor at Manhattan College but also the Assistant Director of the Counseling Center. Rivera has been working at the counseling center for a year and informed students that the counseling center is a place for them to feel safe and that everything is kept confidential.
Prior to the keynote speaker, Dr. Jordan Pascoe, TBTN faculty advisor thanked everyone for coming, and thanked the committee for all of their help organizing the event.
Kelly Tsai, the keynote speaker of the evening is a spoken-word poet from Illinois who shared her experience with sexual assault and what she is doing to support the movement. Throughout her talk, Tsai shared a number of her original spoken-word poems, regarding topics ranging from sexual assault to a world run by her.
“People go through things and don’t know they have the right to be mad,” Tsai said.
Tsai’s ability to share her intimate, personal experience with a room full of strangers was powerful, according to Pugliese.
“I think our event went really great and I think it’s getting better every year. I love how much support everyone has for one another regarding this cause and I think the event really helps to make people realize that there’s others around them that have been through the same thing, and it makes them see that they’re not alone nor do they need to feel shame about seeking support or help,” Pugliese said.
The audience of TBTN was full of a variety of students, and while the majority were women, the significance of the men in the room who were either there to support survivors, share their experience, or simply be an ally was also powerful.For some students it was their first time attending Take Back The Night.
“Thursday was my first TBTN. I went because I thought I owed it to those whom the issue of sexual violence affect. Not going when I had the opportunity to would’ve meant, to me at least, being somewhat complicit in this violence,” said Lucas DeBono, a senior.
“I think the event went very well. Learning more about the issue was of course helpful, but the ethos of solidarity and compassion affected me in a way I’m not sure I know how to put to words yet. Seeing faces I see all the time step forward during the vigil showed me just how serious this violence is, and just how important acting toward the issue is. When you act, you aren’t just acting for some abstract cause; you’re literally standing with people you know, maybe even intimately.”
For others, this was not their first time in attendance.
“This was my second Take Back the Night and I went in support of my friend Britney Vargas who is part of the committee, but also because I had a really great time last year and I think spreading awareness about sexual assault is always an important issue even if the conversation makes us uncomfortable,” said Cheyenne Ubiera, a junior. “I think Thursday’s event went even better this time around especially when Kelly Tsai was performing her poetry; it had so much raw emotion that I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up a bit.”
Take Back The Night gives a voice to those who feel voiceless and provides a great feeling of comfort amongst all, both victims and allys. Manhattan College’s fourth annual Take Back The Night was a step towards ending widespread sexual violence.