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Taking back the night by reversing the cycle



“Jane” — whose name has been changed to protect her identity — only remembers the night in flashes.

“Your brain only lets you register so much traumatic information at once,” she said.

That night, Jane had been raped. She didn’t feel like she could talk to anyone about it, so she stayed quiet. She lost many of her friends because of her developed lack of trust. She attempted to make more friends and reacquire normalcy in her life, but nothing seemed to work.

“He fucked up my life so bad,” Jane said. “There is no way to tell you all the things that would have been different if that hadn’t had happened to me.”

The University’s 33rd-annual Take Back the Night rally, organized by the University’s Women’s Center and nonprofit organization Sexual Assault Support Services, marched in the rain Thursday evening from the EMU Amphitheater all the way downtown. The rally was established in 1975 in Philadelphia, Pa., to be the resource for sexual assault survivors like Jane who feel they have no place to go for help and to raise awareness of sexual assault in all of its forms.@@http://www.takebackthenight.org/[email protected]@

University graduate student Megan Burke has participated in Take Back the Night every year for the past ten years. @@http://uoregon.edu/findpeople/person/Megan*[email protected]@

“Take Back the Night means so many things,” Burke said, who gave a speech at the rally. “First, it’s taking back women’s freedoms from a culture that denies it to them. It means giving voice to a violence that is so prevalent yet so invisible, and it means challenging the culture and institutional support that encourages a rape culture.”

According to a study conducted by New York University, one in five college women is raped during her college years. Eighty to 90 percent of sexual assaults are conducted by a person whom the survivor knows.

Jane, who was dating the perpetrator, understands the repercussions of such a traumatic event. For her, the biggest barrier between sorrow and recovery was seclusion.

“It’s hard because you can’t just talk about those kind of things,” she said. “You can’t just tell people. It’s so stigmatized and taboo, I didn’t feel like I could tell my friends.”

“It’s the most powerful event we do all year,” said University junior Nina Nolen, public relations coordinator of the Women’s Center. “All of the people — survivors and supporters — come together and show the survivors that they have support.” @@http://uoregon.edu/findpeople/person/Nina*[email protected]@ @@http://pages.uoregon.edu/women/[email protected]@

Nolen also noted the event is to raise awareness for the new mandatory reporting policy the University recently put into place, which requires identification of the survivor. While the policy still requires University employees to submit sexual assaults reported to them to the Office of the Dean of Students, it essentially eliminates the anonymous reporting process, potentially deterring survivors from reporting out of shame, fear or embarrassment.

Jane said that if mandatory reporting were required when her assault happened, she would have been more frightened than anything else.

“It would have been a very unsafe situation to be in with mandatory reporting,” she said.

Three years later, Jane is actively involved in campus activities and has built a new support system, created with family and friends. She started taking classes she not only liked but also wanted to take. Her life took an quick U-turn. She did not forget what happened in the past but accepted what was going to happen in the future.

“I think I’ve become stronger after going through all the things I had to go through,” she said. “But, I would never wish that upon anyone.

“And, it’s not just about telling young women what to do, it’s also about keeping young men responsible for their actions.”

Keeping men responsible requires men and women to come together to stop the cycle of a person being sexually assaulted and not reporting the crime. It also comes from shifting the mentality from victim-blaming — telling women not to wear certain clothes or drink alcohol — to holding the people who committed the assault responsible.

“It’s college,” Jane said. “People are going to drink and have fun — it’s a big part of the social aspect of school. We can’t tell people to stop drinking because they aren’t going to. They built crosswalks to help people cross the street — something that they need to do. We need to build a crosswalk for this.”


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