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Assault survivors taking back the night

By Irene Rotondo
@irenerrotondo

Hushed conversations echoed off of the walls in Judd Gymnasium.

Brown wooden round tables were cast in clusters to the side, leaving a large exposed clearing in the center of the large room.

Abruptly, senior Tyler Polansky called everyone in the room to attention and asked them to join her in the center of the room, and to please bring their cellphones. 

Another year had passed, and thus commenced Springfield College’s annual Take Back the Night event on Tuesday, October 22, at 7:00 p.m.

In a perfect world, where boys and girls are all nice to each other and family members look at their younger relatives kids they love, Take Back the Night does not exist.

However, in today’s world, this type of event is an absolute necessity.

Circled around Judd were students, both male and female, along with the faculty members and administrators, holding up their cellphones with the flashlights turned on to full brightness. 

Nine members of the Springfield College community stood as a group in the center of the circle to tell their own harrowing stories on the violence of sexual assault that they or their loved ones have experienced in their lives.

These men and women read poems and told their experiences of being survivors of sexual assault. The stories ranged from abuse from family members, to detailed recounts of rape, to poems about how their own childhood assault tragedies have shaped them as adults.

Polansky, the President of SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) stated, “Take Back the Night, for me, means more than just taking back my two experiences of being raped. It means taking back my worth, my intimacy, my privacy, my confidence, and with that, I ultimately get to define what that means to me and those experiences.”

“I can now recognize that this has bruised me, dented me, and shaped me in multiple ways, but I will always be whole. At the end of the day, I am what this means to me,” she added.

Per rainn.org, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, college-aged students (ages 18-24) are more likely to be raped or experience sexual violence than any other age group. 

Male college students are 78 percent more likely to be a victim of sexual assault and rape than other men of the same age who are not enrolled in school. 

Meanwhile, 23.1 percent of all female undergrad college students experience rape or sexual assault after enrolling in school.

These statistics only cover what happens to college students. Sexual assault can happen to any person at any time, and this is why Take Back the Night and events similar to it are a crucial step for recovery as a society.

Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper spoke on what Take Back the Night means to her and to the campus as a whole. 

“Tonight is about being present and hearing other people’s stories. This is probably my fourth Take Back the Night, and each one of them [is] really raw with individual stories that need to be told and, more importantly, need to be heard,” she said.

“Especially on this campus, because we really are a community of caring people that want to make sure these things don’t happen here… you hear these stories tonight, as we did together, and it is painful that these stories were made and are there in their lives forever. It was important for me to be here tonight, to be present, and that’s the least we can do for people — to be present and hear their stories,” she added.

If you or someone you know ever experiences sexual violence of any type, do not hesitate to contact Public Safety’s Emergency Line (413) 748-5555. The counseling center is also available for help and can be reached at (413) 748-3345. The Office of Title IX can provide services such as no contact orders, etc. and they are able to provide interim services for you as well. Their number is (413) 748-3248.

Photo Courtesy Springfield College Marketing & Communications

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