Take Back the Night has rich past with civil rights

By Hayley Devitt

Take Back the Night is back at NIU and everyone is invited.

Take Back the Night is an internationally known demonstration aimed at raising awareness for and standing against crimes of sexual and domestic violence that happen all the time.

In writing this, I couldn’t help but remember the horrible loss of Toni Keller in 2010, and just hope with all my might that nothing like that ever happens again.

The event today is to be quite inclusive, as seen by its description on the event page on Facebook: “Together we can change our culture and build a society where all people are safe and respected, including women, children, the LGBTQ community, minorities, and people with disabilities!”

On Take Back the Night’s website, I learned the event began as Reclaim the Night in March 1976 in Brussels with more than 2,000 women in attendance.

The site, however, also says “the first documented Take Back the Night event in the United States took place in October 1975 in Philadelphia….. Citizens rallied together after the murder of young microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth, who was stabbed to death by a stranger no more than a block away from her home while walking the streets, alone.”

NIU has participated in and held Take Back the Night rallies for at least 15 years. This is an important demonstration to bring to college campuses.

Throughout American history, young people have been major agents of change.

During the civil rights movement in the ’60s, lunch-counter sit-ins were started by four college students and grew to include more than 70,000 participants by August 1961.

While social injustices like rape, murder and abuse are still rampant, there is always reason and need to fight back against them.

Rebekah Kohli, program coordinator and Women’s Studies co-faculty adviser, said student participants have described Take Back the Night as “powerful,” “moving,” “exciting” and “empowering.”

She also provided me with an inspiring quote from alumna Amanda Schrems, who said the event “means empowerment for all women, men, children and LGBT. For all people to be who they want, dress how they want, and to not live in fear of becoming a victim of violence no matter what time of the day or night.”

In the words of Amanda Littauer, assistant women’s studies professor, “It means that women are asserting our right to be sexual, expressive, safe and respected.”

All of our students deserve to be safe at NIU, especially after dark. Let’s show the community we will not tolerate violence against women.

Take part in Take Back the Night at 7 p.m. at Martin Luther King Commons.