Nearly 60 students and several university administrators gathered at a rally in New South’s Riverside Lounge Friday night for the culmination of a weeklong series of events to raise awareness about the sexual abuse of women.
The Take Back the Night Rally Against Gender Violence included artistic performances, speeches and testimonials from victims of sexual violence.
Philosophy professor Alisa Carse described a crisis of what she termed “disconnected sexuality” in the United States.
“Violent sexuality is an extreme and destructive form of disconnection,” she said. “This experience can shatter fundamental assumptions about one’s place in the world.”
Carse described how survivors of sexual violence often feel shame and guilt following their victimization. But she also said that many women find talking about their experiences can be helpful.
“How we address sexual violence on this campus is a crucial measurement of our humanity,” she said. “Take Back the Night is a celebration and example of friendship and the forces of love.”
Activist Dana Campbell spoke about domestic violence in same-sex relationships. She described a “lack of resources, services and education” among same-sex abuse victims that makes them reluctant to report physical or sexual abuse to authorities.
“There’s a general silence in the LGBTQ community surrounding sexual violence,” she said.
The evening began with performances from the Radical Cheerleaders, a group primarily comprised of members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee. The Radical Cheerleaders were followed by a performance by the Georgetown Step Team.
The evening concluded with testimonials by student survivors of sexual abuse.
Aartie Manansingh (SFS ’07) read from a letter written by Lili Mathis (COL ’04) about her experience as a survivor following a spring break trip.
Mathis wrote about how a man she had met during the trip forced her into a hotel room where he sexually assaulted her.
“He determined what happened that night. What he did to me has determined the course of my relationships,” she wrote. “Telling my story has been my way of taking back what he took from me that night: my life and my story.”
Rain canceled a march around the Georgetown campus scheduled to follow the rally. Instead, a group of students went to the Black House on 36th Street to discuss their personal experiences.
Despite a smaller than expected crowd, Take Back the Night co-chair Liz Trautman (SFS ’05) said the event was successful.
“It went really well despite the rain. When we’re outside we usually attract a lot more people but I was impressed by the number of students who came out and managed to find Riverside Lounge,” she said.
Hemly Ordonez (SFS ’07) said she benefited from the evening.
“There were really touching stories shared,” she said. “It was emotionally charged but great that these women could share their feelings. I respect and admire them.”
Organizers put on a variety of events during Take Back the Night Week including a poetry night, domestic violence workshop and depression screening.
The week’s events were supported by 34 student organizations and 10 university academic departments.