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Take Back The Night, women and men unite

To begin, I will forewarn you that this column will not be an easy read. I do not consider myself extremely political, but there are some topics that I truly care enough to keep myself educated on. There are some topics on which I will speak out strongly.

The one I am focusing on with this column are women’s rights, specifically that of rape culture.

Along with some close friends of mine on July 13, I headed to Symphony Circle in the city of Buffalo, where I participated in “Take Back the Night,” my first ever demonstration. Approximately 200 people attended.

Take Back The Night dates back to the early 1970s, with an anti-pornography demonstration in San Francisco, Calif. in 1973, followed by a public march on the streets of Philadelphia, Pa. in 1975, after a woman was stabbed while walking home alone.

Since the beginning, Take Back The Night events have had a central focus to “eliminate sexual and domestic violence, in all forms.”

The definition of rape is an action that “may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent,” according to the 2014 United States Bureau of Justice.

Rape is not limited to just someone hiding behind a bush or sneaking up on a person in a parking garage. All situations of sexual violence are relative. The range of acts may include “rape, incest, child sexual assault, ritual abuse, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, human trafficking and voyeurism,” according to Take Back The Night’s website.

Although the rally happened in the city, sexual assault takes place a lot closer to home than you might imagine.

A 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention broke down the identity of sexual violence perpetrators for female rape victims; 51.1 percent of perpetrators were reported to be intimate partners; 12.5 percent were family members; 40.8 percent were acquaintances and 13.8 percent were strangers.

The personal stories of recent assaults that can be found at demonstrate the varying degrees and experiences that show these acts of violence are not limited to the confines or stereotypical representations of what one may envision as “rape.”

A 19-year-old wrote about an incident that occurred between her and her boyfriend, while she was a freshman in college.

“We ended things during the summer, then he was in my dorm room one night and wanted to have sex. I said no and told him to leave. Instead, he forced me to my bed and raped me.”

A 26-year-old woman was raped by a friend that she had known for 12 years. She was drunk, sleeping and debilitated, as he started having sex with her while she was in and out of consciousness.

“But in the end, the prosecutor said there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges,” she wrote. “He gets to live like nothing happened; I can hardly call what I’m doing living.”

Another woman wrote graphically about how she was forcibly raped by her eighth grade teacher when she was 13 years old. It took her four years to tell someone what happened.

In many cases, it takes victims of rape or sexual assault a lengthy period of time before they are able to tell someone their story. Instances of sexual violence can incite feelings of shame, self-blame and the idea that no one will believe them.

A multitude of essays, articles, books and news reports have shown that, on an institutional and legal level, there is difficulty for victims dealing with acts of sexual violence.

The New York Times recently published an article titled “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t,” which follows the story of a girl named Anna who was raped while she was a freshman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Central New York. It reports that it was not an easy road for Anna, dealing with accusations of false allegations and according to her lawyer, Igna Parsons, “The questioning is absolutely stunning in its absurdity.”

Liz Seccuro published a memoir titled “Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice” about how she was raped while attending the University of Virginia. Reports to the campus police did not bring justice, and even led to the dean asking her, “Are you sure this wasn’t consensual sex that just got a little too rough?”

Even within the Western New York area, the State University of New York at Buffalo has had a total of 17 forcible sex offenses reported on campus in the past few years, with two in 2010, three in 2011 and a spike in 2012 to a total of 12. That information was pulled from a statistical analysis titled “Sex offenses on U.S. college campuses” published by The Washington Post.

After the Take Back The Night march through the West side of Buffalo, participants were invited to speak out by organizer Whitney Crispell.

“I thought it was interesting that we had a lot of folks come out that were not from the city of Buffalo, or from that neighborhood, but wanted to show their support,” she said.

Many were victims, sometimes on multiple occasions, and some were there just to show support for the desire to end rape culture. Circled around the megaphone were both women and men, spanning in age from elderly people to children.

Stories ranged in experience, as well. Some spoke out about whistles, cat calls and being followed by men as they walked down the street. One woman was raped by a family member and when she told her parents, they did not believe her, so she kept telling more and more people until finally, someone did. Tears were brought to many of the eyes of ralliers who listened to those accounts.

The general consensus of those assembled, myself included, is wanting to feel safe in not only our neighborhoods, but our world. At the root of it all, sexual violence is an act of dominance. It is beyond the point of evolution that there should still be acts of sexual violence against us, just because we are women; not to say that rape is exclusive to just that sex, because it can and does happen to men.

Rape is also not exclusive to just the city of Buffalo or other urban areas.

According to Hamburg Police Officer Scott Fraser, there have been no reported rapes within the area in the last four years. There should be an emphasis on the term reported. Just because there is not paperwork saying that it happened does not mean it has not been happening.

Education on this topic should not be limited to any age. Sexual violence can happen as a child, in a marriage, as a college student, in a relationship, walking down the street and so on. The only way to bring it to an end is to know about it, now.

High school students need to be aware of what exactly constitutes rape. College students need to be heavily educated, as well.

Such a cruel act can lead to traumatic results, including post-traumatic stress disorder and an effect on the psyche that can impact future relationships on a physical, mental and emotional level.

Don’t chalk this article up to a cliché feminist rant; I have no sympathy for ignorance. This is not based on any sort of misandry ideology. Putting an end to rape culture and sexual violence is an issue of human rights, and it will take both men and women to stop it.


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