Students Take Back the Night in Goddard Chapel

Neena Kapur addresses the audience about self-care before the survivor stories commenced on Nov. 5, 2014. Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily

Amid an ongoing reformation of Tufts’ sexual misconduct adjudication process and a nationwide spotlight on colleges’ handling of sexual assault, last night’s Take Back the Night event aimed to provide a safe space for survivors of sexual assault at Tufts.

Six months ago, U.S. Department of Education (ED) found the Tufts in violation of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination on campus, including sexual assault. Many of the same students who rallied last year against Tufts’ decision to “revoke” their signature from their agreement with the ED, participated last week in a nation-wide demonstration in solidarity with a student who said she was raped at Columbia University.

“This is definitely just one small part of a larger conversation that’s happening on campus and we’re satisfied with that,” Panhellenic Council President Adiel Pollydore, a senior, said.

In total, eleven people shared personal accounts of sexual violence. Some survivors read their own experience of sexual assault and other survivors wrote their stories for other student volunteers to read. Nearly filling Goddard Chapel, students in the audience held a moment of silence following the reading of the survivors’ stories, to show their solidarity with those who have experienced sexual misconduct, according to senior Neena Kapur, the event organizer.

“No one is alone in the struggle,” Kapur said. “There is no shame in being a survivor and there is no shame in taking back what is rightfully yours.”

Counseling and Mental Health Services Director of Outreach Marilyn Downs, who leads a campus survivor support group, spoke before students shared their stories, urging those in attendance to seek out therapy if they had been sexually assaulted.

“We are not mandated [reporters] in any way,” she said. “It’s very freeing in a way.”

Traditionally held on the roof of Tisch Library, organizers kept Take Back the Night inside this year after inclement weather moved the event into Goddard Chapel last year. When she first attended Take Back the Night, Pollydore said she simply “stumbled upon it” while walking through campus and ended up staying for the event duration.

The national Take Back the Night foundation was created in part to empower women to feel safe from harm outside after sunset, according to its website. However, shifting the event indoors fostered the spirit of the event in a different way, Pollydore noted.

“There’s also something about it being in an intentional space for people and having people who want to be here just come in and not have it fully be seen,” she said. “That lack of visibility can also create a safer environment for people who are sharing their stories.”

After its founding in the United States in the 1970s, Take Back the Night has turned its focus toward campus sexual violence, according to its website. According to Daily archives, Tufts students have hosted Take Back the Night on campus since for a decade.

This year, Take Back the Night was hosted by the Panhellenic Council, Tufts Health Services, the Women’s Center, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and the Tufts University Police Department.