Take Back the Night refers to rallies, marches, and vigils that have emerged within the United States over the past 30 years as important components of the antirape movement. These events are intended as protests against sexual violence and symbolize women’s right to be free from rape on the streets and in their own homes.
Although there is some debate about its origins, it is believed that the roots for Take Back the Night can be found in a protest that occurred in England in 1877. A group of women gathered in the streets of London to protest the robberies and violence that they were experiencing at night on the streets. Some argue that the first rally against rape occurred in Germany in 1973 as a response to widespread violent crimes against women.
The first Take Back the Night in the United States occurred in 1978 when approximately 5,000 women from all over the country gathered together in San Francisco. The focus of this event was on women’s experiences of rape and testimonies about the effects of pornography. The rally concluded with a candlelight march through the streets.
In the United States, the first Take Back the Night events involved primarily feminist women who were survivors of sexual violence. Speak-outs, where survivors of rape and sexual assault provided testimony about their experiences and the effects of the violence on their lives, were central to the first events and still occur at most Take Back the Nights today. However, there are many different types of events that have occurred since the late 1970s, and this movement has not been without conflict. The role of men in Take
Back the Night has been the focus of debate, with some arguing that this event should focus on women’s collective experience and the creation of a safe and empowering space for women. However, others argue that both women and men should be involved in working to challenge the rape culture and ending rape. In the mid-1990s the number of Take Back the Night events decreased with the backlash against feminism and the popular media’s focus on “rape hype.” However, since this time, Take Back the Night events have occurred across the country to raise awareness about the prevalence of rape.
Take Back the Night varies considerably today from college campuses where small groups of women gather to speak out and march with candles to large community events that involve keynote speakers and educational workshops. Regardless of the form that it takes, Take Back the Night continues to symbolize a commitment to empowering survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness about rape and its effects.
- A History of Take Back the Night. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://takebackthenight.org/history/
- Martell, D., & Avitabile, N.E. (1998). Feminist community organizing on a college campus. Affilia, 13(4), 393–410.
- Nable, E., & Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. (2002, Spring). Take Back the Night: A stop rape movement tradition. Frontline, 1, 6–7.
- Smith, J. (2000). Take Back the Night: Postmodern theory turns into action. Off Our Backs, 30(1), 14–16.
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