Despite Thursday night’s chilly weather, more than 150 survivors of sexual violence, allies, activists, and friends marched through Morningside Heights to Take Back the Night.
Some carried signs that said, “Stop the violence,” while others blew whistles and shouted slogans as they walked shoulder-to-shoulder in the annual event.
“We, starting tonight, need to stop being polite. We need to stop seeking validation from an administration that has not done enough to protect us,” Morgaine Gooding-Silverwood, CC ’14, queer radical activist and sexual violence survivor, said in a speech before the march. “Let this not be the only time this year that we yell at the top of our lungs, enough!”
With this year’s event coming after months of student activism on Columbia’s sexual assault policy, Gooding-Silverwood shared her own experience and her thoughts on the intersectional nature of sexual violence with the students who congregated in front of the Barnard gates before the march.
“Rape culture is teaching new students during orientation that consent is sexy instead of consent is necessary,” she said, referring to calls to reform New Student Orientation Program consent workshops.
For an hour, a column of marchers circled Morningside Heights, pausing for a moment of silence on College Walk. Shouts of “University silence perpetuates the violence” and “Rape is a felony even with CUID” reverberated across 113th and 114th streets as curious local residents craned necks out windows or ran out of doors to wave at the procession.
Participants of this year’s Take Back the Night said they felt allied with the goals of the march on a personal level.
“I care a lot about doing whatever I can to not perpetuate systems of oppression,” Rebekeh Packer, BC ’17, said. “I get frustrated a lot in a college setting with people’s tendency to accept rape culture as a norm. People need to keep talking about this, people need to keep being loud.”
“I’m here just to support the cause,” one student, who asked not to be named, said. “To be heard, you need voices. To march, you need bodies.”
“This is really fucking important, and the administration needs to see that people care and that people won’t be silenced,” the student added.
Carlos Ortiz, GS ’14, said he felt a personal responsibility as a male to be a part of the march. This year is the third year that TBTN has been completely gender-neutral, after being women-only from its foundation in 1978 until 2008.
“As a man, I think it’s important we stand up in solidarity, and against the abuses of power that come with differences between men and women in our society,” Ortiz said.
After the march, participants grabbed bagels and hot chocolate outside the Diana Event Oval before the speakout began. Inside, they found blankets on the floor of the darkened room. Some lit up electronic candles that had been provided to puncture the darkness.
Behind a screen for anonymity, survivors shared their stories and thoughts—taking back the night as Gooding-Silverwood had proclaimed in her speech before the march.
"Let us not just take back the night, let us take back the morning, the afternoon, evenings, dusk, and dawn. Take back your history, take back your education, take back your safe spaces, take back your communities, take back your land, take it all back, " Gooding-Silverwood said to cheers from the crowd. "It is yours.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misquoted parts of Gooding-Silverwood's speech. Spectator regrets the error.