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Take Back the Night Statement on Bwog Comments

Take Back the Night Statement on Bwog Comments

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Published by: Columbia Daily Spectator on Apr 17, 2012
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01/23/2013

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Take Back the Night Responds to Bwog Comments about an Attempted Sexual Assault inRiverside Park April 16, 2012:Yesterday evening, Bwog reported that, on April 13, a man in Riverside Park attempted tosexually assault a woman jogging past him. The post on Bwog sparked a heated debate about theroll and responsibility of a survivor within his/her own assault experience. We at Take Back theNight reject all forms of victim-blaming, and are appalled that such sentiments could come fromour own community members.Many comments voiced "common sense" safety concerns about jogging alone, passing throughour neighboring parks, or participating in some kind of "dangerous" or "risky" activity.Commentors reasoned that these behaviors often result in experiences of assault.While Take Back the Night acknowledges that safety planning is a form of risk reduction (that is,that encouraging individuals to be vigilant can help increase the personal safety of theindividual), we feel that the comments on the Bwog article recreated the marginalization thatmany survivors experience on campus.Risk reduction tactics unfairly focus attention on the potential survivor or victim within asituation. We understand risk reduction to be a highly gendered phenomenon: women are, moreoften than any other gender, encouraged to monitor their behaviors. It is also a racializedphenomenon: individuals are instructed to stay away from low-income communities and/orcommunities of color because these neighborhoods are unfairly viewed as more "dangerous."Risk reduction privileges a stereotypical assault experience that makes invisible those survivors--the majority of survivors--who experience abuse at the hands of an acquaintance, friend, mentor,or family member. Finally, because risk reduction is so present within our framework of conceptualizing sexual assault, survivors often face a barrage of questions implying that they didnot "do enough" to prevent their own assault. These sentiments place blame on survivors,faulting them for their own assault experience.Take Back the Night demands that we shift this paradigm. We reject the sexist, racist, andclassist implications embedded within victim-blaming discourses. We reject the idea that sexualviolence most frequently happens off-campus in "unsafe" neighborhoods. Sexual violencehappens in our classrooms, in our dorms, in our fraternities and sororities, and on CollegeWalk. When we walk around this campus, we can expect to have classes with, be friends with,be roommates with, be teammates with, be dating women, men, and people of all genders whohave experienced sexual violence. When we walk around this campus, we can expect to haveclasses with, be friends with, be roommates with, be teammates with, be dating people who areperpetrators of sexual violence.We encourage all community members to join with us Thursday evening for the annual TakeBack the Night Rally, March and Speakout. The rally begins at 8pm at the Barnard gates and isfollowed by a march around Morningside Heights to reclaim our community as a safe space. A

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