Fourth Annual Take Back the Night

Fourth Annual Take Back the Night

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By Jada Butler

Co-Editor-In-Chief

Students and administrators filled almost every seat in the Gold Coast Cinema for the fourth annual Take Back the Night event on Thursday, March 28. The event featured guest speaker Matt Baker, the director of public safety at Rosemont College in Pennsylvania and a survivor of sexual assault.

Baker shared his story of being sexually assaulted for four years since he was nine years old. A man who watched Baker and his friends play on a motorbike for days lured Baker in by feeding into his love for motorcycles. Baker identified how the man “groomed” him, little by little testing the boundaries of how close he could get to Baker and earning his trust.


The Take Back the Night Committee spent weeks preparing for the event

Baker never told anyone what was happening to him, though he now wishes he had. He advised students to “stand up and say something” if you know someone who is doing something wrong.

Baker’s abuse took place is the 1980s, when people dying of AIDS was the biggest news. When the abuse finally stopped, and Baker entered middle school, he feared that AIDS would take his life as well, but he felt that he couldn’t tell anyone what happened to him. With all of that bottled up inside, he became a bully and got into many physical fights. It wasn’t until he tried to attack a kid named Paul for wearing a belt that said “sexy” that some “divine intervention” made him stop. “I had a deep sense of shame and disgust of the person I’ve become,” Baker said.

From then on, Baker decided to change and stop attacking those who couldn’t defend themselves. He became the “bullies’ bully,” sticking up for those who didn’t have a voice. He encouraged the students in the cinema to be the better people in the world, and to always use these five words: “How can I help you?

”The Speak Out event, where students had the opportunity to share their own experiences, followed Baker’s talk. Students spoke on the stage, or submitted their stories anonymously in another room. Three students shared their stories in person, and a member of the Take Back the Night committee read the six anonymous submissions.

T-shirts hung in Hillwood Commons shared supportive messages

Through these shared experiences, sexual assault and abuse was discussed in varying situations, including at college parties, in the home, in work environments, when alcohol was involved, and even within relationships.

One of the anonymous writers who wrote about their fight to escape domestic abuse advised students to be wary and that “trust is something that must be earned.”

After the speak out event, campus life staff and members of the committee handed out glow sticks and asked people to crack them as they asked questions that applied to them. Students cracked the glow sticks if they know someone who has been assaulted, if there was someone in their family who has been assaulted, and if they wanted to “take back the night” and put a stop to sexual assault.

Red flags marked the route for the march

Students lined up outside for a march around campus, following the red flags that started at Hillwood Commons and went on towards Kumble Hall, around to the Winnick House and across the freshmen quads, down the Chipmunk Trail, and back to Hillwood Commons again.

During the march, students chanted, “People unite / Take back the night. Survivors unite / Take back the night,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho / Sexual assault has got to go. The time is right / The day is here / Tonight’s the night / We take back the night. The time is now / The day is here / We will not live in fear,” and “Stop the violence / Stop the hate. Shatter the silence / Stop the violence. No more silence / No more violence.

“The key message we want people to take away is that it [sexual assault] can happen to anybody, and anybody does it,” J. Fordsman, a sophomore psychology and criminal justice double major and a Take Back the Night committee member, said. “We always think ‘my brother wouldn’t do that, my cousin wouldn’t do that, they’re good people.’ But somewhere, someone’s cousin did do it. We have a responsibility to the people we love and care about to make sure that they don’t do it, and that if it happens to them that we support them as much as we can.”

Associate Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Director Jean Anne Smith advised students who are victims of sexual assault, or students who know someone on campus who may be suffering, to visit her office on the second floor of Hillwood Commons, room 240. “My door is always open,” she said.

Students can also seek counseling at the Center for Healthy Living in Post Hall, or by contacting Lynne Schwartz, the director for the center for healthy living, at lynne.schwartz@liu.edu.

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