April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women and Gender Advocacy Center is hosting several events to promote understanding of that complicated issue. Take Back the Night, a large annual event hosted by the Campus Feminist Alliance and aided by WGAC, will occur tonight from 7-9 p.m., beginning in Montfort Quad on campus and ending with a march through Old Town. WGAC Victim Advocate and CFA Casey Malsam speaks with the Collegian about the importance of SAAM and Take Back the Night.
What is the intent behind Take Back the Night?
“It’s an event that I think people look forward to every year, and it typically has between three and four hundred people show up, so it’s a big event. Take Back the Night is a national program that a lot of different campuses and a lot of different communities do, and the idea is for people to speak out against sexual violence because sexual violence is such a silent topic in our society. There aren’t a lot of venues to speak about the harm that happens.”
What occurs at Take Back the Night?
“The evening starts with survivors getting up and speaking their stories in whatever format that looks like — so some people will write out their stories and read them, sometimes they’ll just get up and talk, we’ve had people write poems … it’s either about the actual violence that happened, or about the aftermath and the healing process. It’s really open to whatever they want to talk about … That part of the event is heavy, it’s emotional. It’s incredibly moving and powerful. But once that part of the evening is over, we march to Old Town from CSU and we rally, and people have signs that they make and bring with them… and they chant the whole way. They make a lot of noise and it’s super fun, and it’s really super empowering… then once we get to Old Town we have a speaker who’s coming, her name is Doris River-Black, she has an organization called Never a Victim.”
What are participants trying to communicate through their signs and chants?
“The mindset is to end the silence of our rape-supportive culture, to name behaviors that aren’t acceptable, to let people know that (sexual assault) has an impact, that it’s not something that people just get over — it takes time, it takes healing, it takes work, and sometimes it’s a lasting impression. This isn’t a victimless crime, and really deserves attention and needs some sort of solution.”
Why is SAAM relevant to CSU students?
“This (month) is incredibly relevant, not just to CSU students but to any college-age student. The statistics around sexual violence are shocking. The lifetime statistic for women is one in four women in their lifetime will experience sexual assault. But if we’re talking about the college population, it’s one in five. So it affects a big chunk of our population, it’s one in two or one in three, depending on which statistics you’re looking at. For the transgender community, it’s one in six for men … those statistics are pretty surprising for people when they find out because it’s such a silent topic, and so that’s one of the reasons why Take Back the Night and events like SAAM are so important, because it helps raise awareness.”