Take Back the Night (TBTN)
Take Back the Night marches were utilized as a form of protest by women against violence committed at night but also the unspoken rules that encouraged violence as a way to intimidate women into submission. Many ideas to mitigate sexual violence against women after dark included encouraging women to walk with male escorts or to ensure they lock their doors to foil would-be attackers. While the intent of these ideas was perhaps well-meaning, they ultimately sent the message that it is the woman’s responsibility to defend herself through socially acceptable behavior modification. Moreover, these solutions either ignore or were unaware of the fact that 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the survivor (According to RAINN)
Take Back the Night marches varied across decades and locations, but all brought awareness to violence against women and asserted that women should have the right to be in public at night without fear of assault.
The first march to “Take Back the Night” that was documented by The Lantern appears in 1978. The 1978 march was said to have over 250 people in attendance and was sponsored by the Women’s Action Collective (WAC), Women Against Rape (WAR), and OSU Rape Education Project. The purpose of the 1978 march as documented in the April 27, 1978 Lantern was to “demonstrate the solidarity and the growing freedom of women and protest all acts of violence against women.” The 1979 Take Back the Night march was estimated to have about 1000 attendees. The 1979 TBTN march was also sponsored by WAC and WAR, however, there was no mention of if OSU Rape Education Project sponsored this march as well. Many of the Take Back the Night Marches provided childcare, and later on, vehicles so that people with disabilities could join as well.
WAR had sponsored many of the 1980s TBTN marches, however, the last documented march WAR sponsored was in 1989. From 1989, the organizing of the Take Back the Night marches seemed to be predominantly within The Ohio State University’s Women Studies graduate program.
Take Back the Night organizers found themselves clarifying their purpose publicly since they were sometimes misunderstood/misrepresented by the larger university community. For example, In the March 11, 1991 Letters to the Editors, the entire Take Back the Night coordinating committee wrote to clarify that Take Back the Night was not a support group but a group dedicated to activism. The committee consisted of Gloria McCauley, Barb Shoulders, Holly Featherstone, Regina Sewell, Gayle Bickle, Naomi Cassierer-Ryerson, and Kim Dill. Gloria McCauley was a coordinator for both the 1990 and 1991 Take Back the Night marches during her time as a Women’s Studies Department Teaching Assistant.
Valerie Rake, who was a Women’s Studies graduate student at the time, was a coordinator for the 1993 and 1994 Take Back the Night marches. Rake participated in an interview where she discussed her time at OSU and her anti-rape activism.
Take Back the Night marches in Columbus persisted throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, albeit sometimes sporadically. Take Back the Night consistently engaged the OSU community throughout the years, both students and faculty. If anything, Take Back the Night marches in Columbus have become almost exclusively student-led by the early 1990s.
One of the most noticeable differences between the 80s/90s marches and the 2000s marches is the difference in location. Before the 2000s, Take Back the Night marches were often held in the downtown area near the Statehouse or Goodale Park. Whereas the 2000s marches seemed to be predominantly on OSU’s campus. The shift of location is one possible reason that led to the lower attendance at the 2000s marches.
After WAR’s dissolution in the mid-1990s, Women and Allies Rising in Resistance (WARR) emerged as the organization that carried on the TBTN march torch on campus until 2013. After a 5-year hiatus and the emergence of the #MeToo movement, Take Back the Night emerged yet again in 2018.
The 2018 march was organized predominantly by students; however, it was also aided by the Multicultural Center’s Women Student Initiatives and the Honors & Scholars' Semester of Service program. The 2018 Take Back the Night had roughly 40 people and concluded with a speak out in Stillman Hall. The 2019 march was also organized primarily by students and had support from Multicultural Center’s Women Student Initiatives. The 2019 Take Back the Night march roughly doubled the 2018 number and also concluded in a speak out in the Ohio Union’s West Plaza. It's On Us and #Fight4Her were just some of the other organizations that were a part of the Take Back the Night coalition that helped organize and promote the marches.
The 2018 and 2019 Take Back the Night marches were promoted in a variety of ways. Some methods were identical to the marches of yesteryears, such as flyers, posters, and word of mouth. Technology played a large role in who saw Take Back the Night marches. In 2018, Take Back the Night organizers utilized #tbtnosu18 on Instagram and Twitter alongside other marketing strategies in an attempt to generate support, awareness, and community around campus. Similarly, in 2019, Take Back the Night organizers utilized social media to promote fundraising, educational events, and the march and speakout.
The Take Back the Night events were not just to raise awareness. Organizers also demanded university-wide changes that would support survivors. The "Dear President Drake" letter, which was written primarily by Emma Terres, outlines what type of resources and systemic changes organizers wanted. This letter was accompanied by a series of signatures that were collected throughout the 2019 Take Back the Night week. However, the letter was never delivered to Dr. Drake, and Take Back the Night organizers instead met with Molly Peirano, who was the assistant compliance director and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at the time.
Emma Terres and Raven Neal-Jackson were both willing to participate in video interviews about their experiences at OSU, anti-rape activism, and Take Back the Night. Emma Terres was one of the students that spearheaded the 2018 revival of Take Back the Night. Terres worked at the Multicultural Center in Women Student Initiatives from 2017-2019, first under Giselle Jeter-Bennett and then Madison Eagle (a previous WARR member). Raven Neal-Jackson was one of the main students who organized the 2019 Take Back the Night march and she also worked for the Multicultural Center in Women Student Initiatives under Madison Eagle.
Take Back the Night at Ohio State (TBTNOSU) was established as an official student organization at OSU in the fall of 2019 in an attempt to achieve longevity for the movement. TBTNOSU has hosted a variety of events and has continued to grow its anti-rape coalition through collaborative action. The Take Back the March that TBTNOSU was planning on April 9, 2020, was canceled due to COVID-19.
It is still too early to tell if this rendition of Take Back the Night will stand the test of times. All that can be said is that the spirit of Take Back the Night has persisted for nearly 50 years and it appears it will continue to do so for as long as it is needed.