What You Need to Know About Take Back The Night & Craftivism

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its fifth consecutive Take Back The Night (TBTN) on Thursday, April 13th. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of questions about what Take Back the Night exactly is, why it looks the way it does, and how students can get involved. To help get those questions answered this year, we’ve doing a “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN so stay tuned for more posts over the next couple of weeks. This is the fifth post in the series and it focuses on the last part of Take Back the Night which is craftivism and community building.

Hearing and sharing survivors’ stories of sexual violence can be empowering, challenging, and emotional. We know that people process their feelings in different ways, and so following survivor speak out and march, the event continues with Craftivism on Main Street. This portion of the program is intended to provide space for reflection, creative expression, and community building.

When the marchers return to Main Street, there will be tables set up with art supplies for anyone wishing to contribute to one of the community craft projects we’ll have available: the FORCE Monument Quilt, the Clothesline Project, and the Dear Survivor scrapbook. We also encourage attendees to check out the resource tables to learn more about various campus and community organizations and services.

A volunteer from FORCE will be present to assist anyone interested in making a quilt square for the Monument Quilt. The Monument Quilt is a crowd-sourced collection of testimonials from survivors of sexual violence, as well as their allies. This national project will eventually blanket the National Mall with the phrase Not Alone. The quilt is a way to demand public space to heal, and create a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed.

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A community member works on a Monument Quilt square.

All are welcome to add a page to our Dear Survivor scrapbook, which features messages of hope, healing, and solidarity from survivors and allies who have attended TBTN in past years. The scrapbook can be found in the Women’s Center lounge.

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The Dear Survivor scrapbook offers messages of healing and solidarity.

Materials for the Clothesline Project will be available for survivors who would like to give voice to their experience by decorating a shirt that will be displayed during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every April, these shirts are hung shoulder-to-shoulder on a clothesline on Main Street to give public testimony to the problems of sexual and gender-based violence. Please note that while allies are invited to participate in the Monument Quilt and Dear Survivor scrapbook, the Clothesline Project is intended for those who identify as survivors.

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TBTN attendees decorate T-shirts for the Clothesline Project.

For those who prefer a quieter space for reflection, there will be a self-care station set up in the commuter lounge available during the survivor speak out and the rest of the evening. There will be tissues, stress balls, coloring supplies, and other resources for self-care. The station also provides a more private space where attendees can speak with one of the counselors on call, if needed.

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Tissues, coloring, and other self-care resources will be available in the self-care station during and after the speak out.

For more information about UMBC’s TBTN (check out Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too by searching the hashtag #UMBCTBTN):

Dear Survivor

This guest post was written by a UMBC community member who has asked to remain anonymous to allow for privacy while sharing this important experience. 

***Content Note: This post contains detailed descriptions of physical threats and sexual violence, and mentions of suicidal ideation. Please practice self-care while reading.*** 

Dear Survivor,

I would like to tell you my story of survival. I think that maybe, just maybe, it could provide you with something that will be helpful. I hope that it will. As a survivor myself, I know that lots of people have reacted to me in ways that minimized my experience, or, in contrast, made my experience into the thing that defined me. Both felt like shit. Both made me feel trapped.

I don’t want to do that to you. Instead, I want to show you a path to a future in which your survival matters, but the specific things you have survived are just a distant footnote in your memory.

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Dear Survivor letters created at UMBC’s Take Back the Night offer messages of solidarity.

I want to tell you some details about my story. It happened 25 years ago.

Continue reading

We Hosted an Event About Masculinity and Sexual Assault and Nobody Came

Daniel Profile Pic A blog post and reflection by staff member Daniel Willey

The following post contains mentions of rape and sexual assault. Hyperlinks marked with * indicate that the article contains detailed accounts of assault in some form.

This past April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Women’s Center hosted an program called “What About the Men?” The event was held on during Monday free hour, and it was billed as “a multimedia discussion on masculinity, sexual assault, and male survivors.*”

I wanted to talk about how societal ideas about masculinity (like sexual prowess, social dominance, financial stability, risk-taking, and the “Man Card”) create an environment that encourages — or is at least passively complicit in — sexual violence against women, and isolates and invalidates male survivors of sexual violence.

And nobody came.

Okay, not nobody. Jess and Megan and Shira were there, and four community members stopped in to see what was happening. We actually had a really great discussion and I’m glad those people were there to have that important conversation. But I want to talk about the people that weren’t there. I want to talk about showing up and speaking out for male survivors. I want to talk about accountability, masculinity, and how sexual assault is everyone’s problem.

So, let’s go back a bit and talk about masculinity. Continue reading

UMBC’s Take Back the Night 2016 Roundup

UMBC’s Take Back The Night took place this past Thursday, April 14th. It was a very powerful evening, featuring a survivor speak-out, a march against sexual violence, and recuperating  with craftivism and community resources!

Couldn’t make it? Check out this recap from the evening!

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The night began with an introduction by the emmcees and march leaders, Kayla  and Sarah.

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A bird’s eye view captured from The Commons second floor. 

The floor was then opened to survivors to come forward and share their stories. Women’s Center student staff member, MJ poignantly pointed out the moments of silence between stories.

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After a few minutes of silent reflection,  many people came forward to share. Every person who came up to the mic showed incredible bravery and helped empassion the audience to break the silence around sexual violence.

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A huge crowd gathered to support survivors

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A major takeaway from the night

Next came the march around campus! At this point in the night, the everyone gathered together to directly disrupt rape culture and call out sexual violence. We began the march from the Main Street, walked towards True Grits, through Academic Row, and back towards The Commons through The Quad.

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The march Passes the Physics building

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A beautiful shot of the march in front of the Library

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1,2,3,4 WE WON’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

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Headed towards Academic Row

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The night concluded in a craftivism session. People sat down to create Monument Quilt squares, “Dear Survivor” scrapbook pages, and survivors created t-Shirts for the Clothesline Project. People came together to create while listening to some empowering tunes and snacking on cookies.

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Reflection and Action. 

Take Back The Night 2016 was a huge success! Thank you to all of the volunteers and UMBC staff members who helped make this event run smoothly and thank you to all who came out to support survivors and fight against sexual violence!

To all UMBC survivors of sexual violence –
We see you. We believe you. It is not your fault. You are not alone. 

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The Women’s center staff thanks everyone for TBTN 2016!

 

Just a reminder for those who might not have been able to attend, there are many resources available to you, both on and off campus.

Voices Against Violence

Women’s Center at UMBC

UMBC Counseling Center

Title IX and UMBC’s Interim Policy on Prohibited Sexual Misconduct and Other Related Misconduct 

Dear Survivor

As part of our 2015 Take Back The Night post-event, the Women’s Center hosted a “Dear Survivor,” letter writing activity. Inspired by the Dear Survivor Project and the book,  Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence students and UMBC community members were invited to craft their own “Dear Survivor” letter or message. Here’s a sampling from just some of the powerful messages written by UMBC community members.
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UMBC’s Take Back The Night 2015- A Visual Recap

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Thursday, April 16th was UMBC’s 3rd Annual Take Back The Night speak-out and march. We had an amazing turn out and we couldn’t have done it without everyone’s hard work and support!

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We had signs that were made by community members, staff, student organizations, and Greek life!

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Jess and Megan setting up our TBTN Banner!

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Setting up T-shirts for the mini Clothesline Project Display

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Right before the Speak-Out

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Staff member, Yoo-Jin Kang and Peer Health Educator, Kayla Smith, were the student emcees and march leaders this year!

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Community listening to the Speak-Out

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The march made a huge impact on campus.         We were even invited to march through the dining hall!

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IMG_1352 After the Speak-out, the community was invited to hang out together, craft for a cause, and enjoy some lemonade and cookies before leaving the event.

IMG_1547IMG_1550What an awesome night!

Just a reminder for those who might not have been able to attend, there are many resources available to you, both on and off campus.

Here are some links: 

Voices Against Violence

UMBC Counseling Center

UMBC’s Relationship Violence Response and Prevention Program (RVAP)

UMBC’s Title IX Coordinator and Info

Women’s Center at UMBC

The Cognitive Dissonance of Internalized Victim-Blaming

This is a guest post that the author asked to be posted anonymously to allow for privacy while still sharing an important experience.

**Trigger warning for extensive discussion of sexual assault and victim-blaming**

I’m an ardent anti-sexual violence activist. I’ve read the feminist literature and participated in consciousness-raising activities. I’ve attended awareness rallies  and signed petitions. I advocate on behalf of survivors and I adamantly oppose victim-blaming myths, language, and practices. My position on the issue is pretty well summed up by the quintessential Take Back the Night chant, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, ‘yes’ means yes and ‘no’ means no.”

But I have a confession.

I know a rape survivor. And I sometimes blame her for what happened. I feel like a horrible feminist, activist, and human being for even thinking it. But sometimes I blame her.

I think about how she had been going out to bars so much lately and how she’d had so many close calls already. Why didn’t she just stay home that night instead of acting like a stereotypical party girl?

I can’t believe she pre-gamed so hard and so fast just to save a little money and calm her social anxiety before going out. She always overdoes it and never learns her lesson.

I wonder why she went to that club where the bouncers were infamous for predatory behavior toward women. She should have known they wouldn’t help her if she needed it.

I ask myself repeatedly why she smiled and chatted politely with that obnoxious self-proclaimed “military stud.” I know he was pretty forceful and she didn’t want to be rude, but she really should have just told him to leave her alone from the start. Maybe then he wouldn’t have dragged her body like a rag doll onto the dance floor.

I really wish she would have watched her drinks better. If she had then maybe she would have been able to keep her eyes open and she would’ve been able to get her tongue to form words. I know her arms felt like jelly, I know he was literally holding her upright to keep her from slumping onto the floor, I know she tried everything she could to push him off of her, but couldn’t she have just, I don’t know, tried harder?

I feel nauseated when I think about how he hugged her afterward while using the pretense of friendly affection to get his hands all over her one last time. The image plays over in my head and I want to scream, “Do something! Make him stop!” Yes, I know, jelly arms. But come on! Who needs upper body strength and basic motor function when you have resolve? And she did have resolve, right?

I cringe when I think about how she still sometimes worries that photos will someday show up online, publicly documenting her violation while framing her as some sort of carefree and tipsy exhibitionist. But who is she kidding if she thinks she lives in a world where women can make mistakes and not fear public shaming?

I feel angry when I remember how for months after that night, instead of going sober altogether she kept up with the habits that had gotten her into that situation in the first place because she figured, well, what did it matter now. And how could she have the nerve to be upset just a few weeks later when she very narrowly avoided an even worse incident but by the benevolent intervention of a few strangers? She should have known that literal unconsciousness would be interpreted by some as fair game.

And I can’t forgive her for just turning and walking away when she saw him again a couple months later, outside that same club, chatting up some other young woman. I know it’s not her fault and his actions that night and any other are his responsibility alone. But I still can’t forgive her.

It makes me sick inside to think it, but every time I try to shut it out it just creeps up again. I know all about how rape culture minimizes violence and shifts blame from sexual predators onto victims. I know it’s bullshit.  And yet I still hear that tiny voice in the back of my mind.  If only she had…If only she hadn’t…If only, if only, if only. If only she’d just not gotten herself raped.

I told you it was a horrible confession. Do you think I’m a sufficiently terrible person yet? A failure as a feminist and an even worse advocate for survivors? What about when I tell you that the rape survivor I’m talking about, the one I just can’t stop blaming, the one I just can’t seem to forgive — is me?

I am the survivor.

She is me and I just can’t manage to stop blaming her for what happened. Me. I can’t stop blaming myself.

And that is the truly toxic nature of rape culture. As a feminist activist, I vehemently and wholeheartedly deconstruct and combat victim-blaming myths and language, all while still struggling with its hold over me. There’s an almost painful cognitive dissonance to it, really. That’s why I’m so outraged when I see rape culture being constantly perpetuated in the media, the justice system, or in my own life. Regardless of the intent, I know all too well how much damage is done by blame-shifting rape apologia. Because there’s no condescending admonishment that survivors haven’t already heard in their own minds over and over again as they try to push through the guilt, shame, and trauma and find their way toward self-forgiveness.

This internal struggle is part of what motivates me to advocate for survivors of sexual assault. To support and empower them to overcome their own internalized victim-blaming. To help them see past their “if onlys” and realize that the only “if only” that matters is “if only the perpetrator hadn’t decided to assault them.”

I fully reject victim-blaming and I say honestly to other survivors that no matter what they were doing or what they were wearing or how much they were drinking that what happened to them was not their fault and they did not deserve it. Absolutely, one-hundred percent, bottom line. And I hope that one day I can say that same thing to myself and believe it just as much as I believe it when I say it about survivors of sexual violence.