Take Back The Night 2017 Roundup!

On April 13th 2017, UMBC hosted Take Back the Night. The night began with an introduction by the emcees and march leaders, Kayla and Sarah, and Women’s Center staff member, Amelia.

After the introduction was the survivor speak-out. The speak-out is the heart of Take Back the Night. This is the point in the night where survivors are encouraged to come up and share their story with the crowd before the march throughout campus. As a survivor, sharing your story at TBTN allows you to publicly acknowledge your experience with a crowd that believes you and supports you.

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Amelia Meman

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Photo credit: Amelia Meman

We then moved on to the march portion of the night where we got loud and chanted in support of victims of sexual violence.

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Amelia Meman

After the march, community members got together for some craftivism! This portion of the program is intended to provide space for reflection, creative expression, and community building.

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

Thank you so much to everyone for a powerful and moving evening. Thank you to every survivor for sharing their story, to every ally who supported the survivors and a special thank you to all the volunteers who made TBTN possible!

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Photo Credit: Amelia Meman

If you weren’t able to make it, here are some resources:

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Photo credit: Amelia Meman

What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & Greek Week’s Partnership

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 5th 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 fourth post in the series and it focuses on the Take Back the Night’s partnership with Greek Week.

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UMBC’s Fraternity & Sorority Community has been involved with Take Back the Night since 2013 when TBTN returned to campus.  We know there are some questions about that involvement, and we’re hoping we can answer them here.

The History – Susan DuMont, Former Coordinator for Fraternities & Sororities, 2010-2015

I was on the Women’s Center Board when the conversation started about bringing TBTN back to UMBC, and I was really excited to be a part of the planning and figuring out what TBTN at UMBC could look like.

That spring when all of the chapters sat down to plan Greek Week, we realized that TBTN was in the middle of Greek Week.  I said that it was important to me that we not plan anything at the same time, so they could either have a Greek Week event earlier in the day or we could incorporate TBTN into Greek Week itself.  I explained what TBTN was, and the chapters decided that they wanted to actively support it.

For sorority members, TBTN is an important opportunity to support all of the survivors and for survivors to give voice to personal experiences with sexual assault.  Every year, including the first, a large number of sorority women have shared their stories from the microphone.  For the men in the community, TBTN was similarly an opportunity to support survivors, but it has also been a chance to witness and participate in a conversation that they are rarely so intimately included in.  Attending TBTN has allowed them to better grasp the magnitude of the prevalence and severity of sexual assault and how personal and important the issue is to their community.  In the second year of TBTN, two fraternity men also spoke as survivors.

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Today – Cory Bosco, Coordinator for Fraternities & Sororities

Fraternities and sororities are organizations based on the concept of brotherhood and sisterhood – relationships that go much further than just friendship.  I have seen the expression of relief and gratefulness when survivors step away from the mic and are embraced by their sisters or their brothers.  Our chapters participate in TBTN because sexual assault affects this campus and our community, and our members want to be part of ending sexual violence.  We attend TBTN because we want to actively change the reality of sexual assault and show that UMBC’s Fraternity & Sorority community is here to be an ally.

Every year we revisit the conversation about whether TBTN should be included in Greek Week, and if so, how to include it in a way that is respectful to the event.  While Greek Week is a chance to celebrate the community and is a fun and competitive experience, it is also a chance to celebrate what the UMBC Fraternity & Sorority Community is about beyond the fun – and that includes a deep commitment to supporting each other as family and a commitment to social justice that is both historical and ongoing. 

There is a misconception that chapters are “required” to attend TBTN.  That is entirely false.  While it is part of Greek Week, chapters “max out” their Greek Week “opportunity” from the program by having a very, very small percentage of their chapter attend comparatively .  What you actually witness, though, is a huge turnout from the majority of chapters regardless of points earned.  The event is part of Greek Week because it is important to chapters, rather than being important to chapters because it is part of Greek Week. 

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

Stay tuned for the next installment of what you need to know about TBTN 2017! 

What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & Why We March

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 5th 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 third post in the series and it focuses on the evening’s campus march against sexual violence.

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1,2,3,4 WE WON’T TAKE IT ANYMORE

 5,6,7,8 NO MORE VIOLENCE! NO MORE HATE!

As a survivor of sexual assault, the Take Back The Night march reminds me that I’m not alone.

Mariana De Matos Medeiros, a UMBC Alumnus and former student staff member at the Women’s Center, said “To me, having the opportunity to speak and march at TBTN last year reminded me that I am not alone and that I can stand in my power to speak about my experience. It took me 3 years to finally speak about my assault and one of the very first times was at TBTN last year. Seeing so many gathered to support allowed me to speak and speaking has allowed me to heal.

It can be easy to blame yourself, isolate yourself, and feel like you’re the only person struggling with your healing; However, the march lets you connect with people who support you and believe you.

Sarah Lilly, a 2016 and 2017 Take Back The Night student leader says “Marching is us showing that solidarity is a verb, and it brings me great pride to feel so supported by my local UMBC community and to see the unconditional support for everyone else in our community.”

In an open letter in her school’s newspaper, survivor and student activist, Angie Epifano, recounted the aftermath of her sexual assault, namely her experience with institutional betrayal. She ended the letter with, “Silence has the rusty taste of shame.” Due to rape culture, victim blaming, a lack of support for survivors, and more, it is understandable that many survivors do not disclose their experience and sexual assault is rarely spoke of in public.

Much like the Baltimore-based Monument Quilt is creating and demanding public space for survivors to heal, Take Back the Night demands for space in which we will not be shamed into silence. Activists like Angie, the Monument Quilt creators, and YOU during the march are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed.

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Here’s some helpful information about the campus march against sexual violence to those attending Take Back the Night at UMBC: 

  • The survivor speak-out is intended to center the voices and experience of survivors of sexual violence. The speak-out is for allies to listen and survivors to break their silence but the march is for EVERYONE to GET LOUD! 
  • We encourage individuals and groups to make rally signs ahead of time. Signs are a great way to show your solidarity and support while also representing your student orgs, res hall communities, and frats/sororities.
  • We’ll line everyone up in the march in waves. Survivors wanting to march up front with other survivors are invited to line up first along with other community members needed to take an accessible route march. Everyone else will then line up as survivors begin to march towards the south exit of The Commons.
  • As we march, walk slowly and stay together. Try to avoid large gaps in the line.
  • The march will end back on Main Street where the space will be ready for the evening’s resource fair and craftivism. As you’re heading back into The Commons, come all the way into Main Street so everyone else behind you can get into the space as well.
  • Counselors-On-Call will be available throughout the evening. Any one needing additional support or simply needs to take a break are invited to visit the self-care station that will be set up in the Commuter Lounge.
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For more information about UMBC’s TBTN (check out Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too by searching the hashtag #UMBCTBTN):

Stay tuned for the next installment of what you need to know about TBTN 2017! 

What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & the Survivor Speak-Out

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 5th 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 2nd post in the series and it focuses on the survivor speak-out.

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The survivor speak-out is the heart of Take Back the Night. This is the point in the night where survivors are encouraged to come up and share their story with the crowd before the march throughout campus. As a survivor, sharing your story at TBTN allows you to publicly acknowledge your experience with a crowd that believes you and supports you.

I, student staff member Kayla Smith, have started the speak out for the past two years and I cherish that moment as a time where I can share my experience with people who I know won’t judge me. I can look out into a crowd of people who won’t tell me its my fault, ask what I was wearing, ask if I was drinking, or tell me that I was responsible for my assault. Speaking out about my assault empowers me to talk about my experience with confidence.

There are a variety of stories and experiences that are shared during the speak- out. Some may share stories or healing while others are still angry, sad, or scared. All of our stories and experiences are valid. And, no matter where you are at in your experience as a survivor (i.e. your assault happened 10 years ago or just last week), you’re welcomed to share your story. 

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Women’s Center Student Staff Member Kayla Smith speaking to the crowd at TBTN 2016

If you’re thinking about speaking at Take Back the Night, feel free to reach out to Women’s Center staff ahead of time if you feel like it would be helpful to talk to someone ahead of time about your story and how you may want to share it. Of course, we know many survivors may not plan on speaking at TBTN and then feel called to do so once the speak-out begins and that’s okay!

It’s also totally okay if don’t feel ready to share your story at Take Back the Night there’s many other ways you can share your story in less public ways throughout Sexual Assault Awareness Month (like making a t-shirt for the Clothesline Project or attending the Monument Quilt workshop) and Take Back the Night (counselors will be available throughout the event and there will be the self-care station). Survivors or anyone impacted by sexual violence can also always schedule a time to talk to Women’s Center staff – we’re quasi-confidential resources on campus and can link you to additional support and resources.

Here’s some helpful information about the speak-out we think is helpful for everyone to know whether they’re speaking or listening:

  • Any one can be a survivor of sexual violence. Any survivor regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation is welcomed to share their story at the speak-out. 
  • The survivor speak-out is intended to center the voices and experience of survivors of sexual violence. The speak-out is for allies to listen and survivors to break their silence. Thank you in advanced for respecting this request. Allies are also encouraged to attend the Women’s Center workshop on Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence on 4/12.
  • Since TBTN functions as a public forum, normal reporting procedures look a bit different. If you choose to share your story, and want to go no further in the reporting process, we encourage you not to disclose any names or other specific identifying information, such as locations or familial relationships, as those details may prompt staff to follow up with you for reporting matters. Staff are available at the event for those who do want additional resources and want to report their experience through UMBC’s Title IX reporting process or police.
  • We ask that you try to limit your story to about 3 minutes. We know it may be hard to do so but we want to make sure as many survivors as possible can speak during the allotted speak out time which is one hour long.
  • Speakers will have the option to identify their story as confidential by placing a sign marked “confidential” on the microphone. Speaking from the “confidential” microphone prohibits anyone from taking pictures, quotes, or recording of any kind.
  • Counselors-On-Call will be available throughout the evening. Any one needing additional support or simply needs to take a break are invited to visit the self-care station that will be set up in the Commuter Lounge.

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

Stay tuned for the next installment of what you need to know about TBTN 2017! 

What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & Its History

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 5th 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 first post in the series focuses on the history and purpose of TBTN.

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The crowd waiting for UMBC’s TBTN 2014 to begin.

In 1971 in New York a group of women and survivors hosted the first-ever rape speak-out that was organized by the group the New York Radical Feminists. A few years later, one of the first “Take Back the Night” marches was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in October 1975.

Despite some advancements and more attention being paid to sexual violence, we still live in a society where over forty-five years later  there is still a need to speak out against rape and sexual assault. There is still a need to say, “It happened to me.” “I believe you.” “You are not alone.” “It is not your fault.” And, so this is why we host Take Back the Night each year at UMBC and why it still happens worldwide.

UMBC (from what we can tell from the archives), held their first TBTN event in the early 2000s for just a few years. Campus stopped hosting it for several years so as to be in solidarity with other area colleges by participating in Baltimore City Hall’s Take Back the Night. But, by 2013, it made the most sense for us to bring back our own Take Back the Night. So the Women’s Center with support from UHS’s Health Education, Greek Week, and a BreakingGround grant did just that. Since then, this campus-wide rally and march against sexual violence has been a signature Women’s Center event every April.

Each year the Women’s Center hosts survivor speak-out followed by a campus march against sexual assault. When marchers return, UMBC’s TBTN spends the rest of the evening doing “craftivism” art healing projects and hosting a community resource fair. A smaller version of the Clothesline Project is also serves as a backdrop to the evening’s events.

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The survivor speak-out at UMBC’s TBTN 2016

Stay tuned for more posts explaining the significance of each portion of Take Back The Night!

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The march against sexual violence at UMBC’s TBTN 2015

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

Stay tuned for the next installment of what you need to know about TBTN 2017! 

Women’s Center 25 Then vs. Now #8: Support for UMBC Moms + Parents

WC 25 Logo - PurpleThe Women’s Center at UMBC turns 25 this year! We’re excited to share our important milestone with UMBC’s 50th Anniversary and will be celebrating throughout the year with the rest of campus! We were inspired by Special Collections archival project Archives Gold: 50 Objects for UMBC’s 50th and decided to do our own digging into the Women’s Center archives. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing 25 “Then vs Now” archives to celebrate the origin and evolution of the Women’s Center at UMBC.

This week we’re featuring the history of the Women’s Center supporting working moms and student parents! 

Since our opening in 1991, the Women’s Center has continually been dedicated to UMBC mother’s and returning students. Long before it was mandatory by policy, the Women’s Center has had a lactation room in our space to supporting nursing moms returning back to work and school. Early in our history, we hosted monthly Mother’s Group meetings and served as a safe-haven for moms to come together sharing both their challenges and successes with each other as they navigated parenthood. Lasting friendships between participants formed and it was empowering to know moms on campus could connect and advocate for themselves and each other. The Women’s Center also hosted a list-serv for these parents to continue connecting with each other sharing resources like childcare, the most reliable sitters, and recommended pediatricians.

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Kiddos and moms hanging out in the Women’s Center in 2000

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Today, the Women’s Center no longer hosts a face-to-face mother’s group meeting but we do host an online forum via myUMBC for parents to connect with each other and share resources (such as the childcare resource guide the Women’s Center manages and updates from year to year). All UMBC parents are encouraged to join. We always welcome little ones into our space and at our events – especially if it means their parents get to spend time in the Women’s Center too! On snow days when UMBC is open and local school districts are closed, your bound to see a Little Retriever or two hanging out in our space with their parents in between their classes. The lactation room is always busy and we work hard to accommodate everyone’s hectic schedules. Many student parents also find a home and support through our Returning Women Students events, programs, and scholarships.  Women’s Center staff also serves as the staff advisor for the new Parents Club student organization. UMBC student parents are encouraged to join the group and can learn more here.

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A Little Retriever playing in the Women’s Center during a recent Parents Club meeting.

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The lactation room in the Women’s Center. Did you know we recently were awarded the Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award?

What are the memories you have of the Women’s Center over the years that are meaningful to you? What does the Women’s Center mean to you today? Share your memories and pictures with us in the comment section below!

Stay up-to-date with our 25th anniversary on social media using #UMBCWC25. Share your Women’s Center experiences and memories with the UMBC community using #UMBCWC25 AND #UMBC50!

This Must Be The Place

Recently, I’ve been buoying myself in this onslaught of political shitstorming by listening to a self-care playlist. The playlist is chock full of all of the songs that help me get by when it’s hard to navigate the world and ones that I can sing very loudly.

One song that I gravitate towards lately is the Talking Heads’s “This Must Be The Place.”

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Click here for text version of This Must Be The Place lyrics.

This song has a lot of meaning for me. It’s the song that my dad serenaded my mother with at their wedding. “This Must Be The Place” is the crucible of my parents’ love, so it’s sort of the thing that formed me. It’s a song I sing to myself when I want to cry and when I want to smile and when I want to scream. I sang it with my dad through a vocal harmonizer as we welcomed 2017 (and threw 2016 into the fire pit). I think my mom cried a bit, but I couldn’t see because I was crying.

Coming back to work at the Women’s Center, I am, yet again, thinking about this song’s resonance and its meaning and its magic.

The Women’s Center is home for me. It is a beacon when trauma strikes and when justice is sought. The Women’s Center simultaneously grounds us and lifts us up—like any good home does. It is a place of love, warmth, truth, and hope. A place so rare and crucial right now.

It would be an understatement to say I am happy to be back at UMBC and at the Women’s Center. I am elated, I am at peace, I am confident. This space, this place—the Women’s Center—fulfills the promises of feminist, queer, radical social justice theories by providing a home for me and all the other community members who occupy its world.

As the Special Projects Coordinator (a title Jess lovingly made for me), I am diving back into the constantly evolving environment of the Women’s Center. Over the semester I will be collaborating alongside staff and interns to enhance programming, expand social media outreach efforts, and design marketing initiatives. In short, doing everything I love to do for an organization I love.

I am so thankful to be back home at the Women’s Center and at UMBC. I am beyond ecstatic to join a team that inspires me everyday, and that I care about so deeply. I am enlivened by the opportunity to continue working with a mission centered on intersectional feminism and critical social justice.

Home, is where I want to be

But I guess I’m already there

I come home, she lifted up her wings

I guess that this must be the place.