More Take Back the Night backlash, violence

I’m reprinting an email (with permission, of course) that I received from Rutgers student Jess Trusiani about something that happened last night at the school’s Take Back the Night march. I felt that it was important to post, especially in light of ladychrist’s Community post about the police harassment at DePaul University’s march. This shit is why we need Take Back the Night.

I’m a rape survivor and this was my second Take Back The Night. Last year’s Take Back The Night at Rutgers meant the world to me. I was in denial about my three sexual assaults for a long time. Being able to get up there and tell my story really showed me how far I had come. It was pretty upsetting to have these jackasses act this way this year. But we didn’t let it ruin our night. I’m really not sure what their intentions were but it definitely proved to me even more just how important Take Back The Night is.
Here’s what happened:
I’m not entirely sure how many guys it was. I think it was about four. They were at the rally at Cooper Green and appeared supportive. They had bandannas covering their faces which I had assumed was a form of protest. I thought maybe it symbolized being forced to remain silent about abuse. No one really questioned it.
The rally finished at Cooper Green and we marched down George Street saying the usual Take Back The Night chants. When we reached the Starbucks on George Street and chanted, “No more silence, no more violence,” I almost got hit with a trash bag. My friend and I looked over on the side of the street and the guys with the bandannas were laughing and tossing trash bags at the marchers.

We were pretty confused and thought they were just rioting so we told them to cool it and reminded them that this was a peaceful march. They continued throwing trash bags and when they picked up news stands and threw them that’s when it got scary.
The crowd turned on them and shouted, “We said NO MORE VIOLENCE”.
The organizer of the event ran over and yelled at each of them. She told me later that none of the guys would talk to her (maybe they didn’t want their voices identified?).They had the nerve to try marching with us after all that but thankfully ended up leaving. The organizer of the event has been going to Take Back The Nights for years and said she had never seen anything like this.
We continued to chant and march to Brower on College Ave. We did the candlelit vigil and open mic speak out. Again, we didn’t let them ruin our night. I’m really not sure what exactly they were trying to accomplish. But it was pretty disturbing.
This is the Rutgers Take Back The Night website if you want to check it out:
http://www.rutgerstbtn.com/
Thanks for reading this,
Jess Trusiani

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9 Comments

  1. Blithely Zealotic
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jess. I was at the march, too. I had to convince myself to go through with it… and was glad I did. This was also my second Take Back the Night.
    I was also confused about why they were marching with us. I figured, “Ok, communities unite, that makes sense. They want to show their support.” They had up a banner that read “pro sex, pro queer, pro choice”. I thought, “alright, I can get behind those things. Maybe they didn’t experience sexual violence, but they’re for freedom for everybody, including women.” So, I didn’t question them. I wish I had, because the handkerchiefs obscuring their faces were somewhat off putting.
    They chanted our chants and carried their banner close to the front. Then they broke off close to Albany St by the Starbucks. I heard a commotion, and saw one of them overturn a news stand. I was really confused and didn’t know what was going on. I don’t think they completed the rest of the march.
    I later heard reports that someone threw an egg at the marchers. Indeed, this is a world hostile to survivors, but this is evidence that we need to stay united. Together, we’re a force to contend with! Together, we’re strong!

  2. JessT
    Posted May 2, 2010 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    @BlithelyZealotic Yeah, I totally agree with you. And overall the night was great. Pandora Scooter rocks, the singers were awesome, the speakout was powerful, the candle light vigil was beautiful, etc.
    I was right behind the handkerchief freaks during the march. I thought having a banner like that at Take Back The Night was a good thing. I think it’s great when organizations and communities that are obviously for women’s rights stand behind a cause like this. Now I wonder if that banner was just for show.
    The handkerchiefs were strange but I think a lot of us gave them the benefit of the doubt because who the hell acts like that at a Take Back The Night march? People who are obviously threatened by it I guess. Oh well, I still had a good night!

  3. eleventhourlove
    Posted May 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi– I was also at Take Back the Night and am one of the organizers of the event. What happened at the event was, to put it lightly, disappointing and upsetting. Jess, I’m really sorry that you almost got hit by one of the trash bags. I hadn’t heard about the egg throwing until now :-/ I don’t know the individuals who were wearing the bandanas. During the march, I heard one of the guys in the group say that he didn’t want the police “following us,” and then proceeded to throw the newsstand. The reality is that the NBPD and RUPD officers volunteered their time to close the streets for the march. Additionally, Rutgers EMS was on standby in case there were any injuries. Without them, we would not be able to march in the street.
    …but we continued on–we did march, we did chant and many people bravely shared their stories. The unwavering resilience of survivors is something that never fails to amaze me. This year’s TBTN is evidence of the fact that no matter what violence we have endured, we have outlived it and continue to survive and speak out, in spite of it. Although what happened is upsetting, it also makes me hopeful that survivors and allies do have the power to create change.
    Our eboard always meets after the event to have a debriefing and discuss any ways we can improve the event next year. I am going to discuss what happened, ways in which we can prevent this from happening, and how we should respond if something like this should happen again. One of the tag lines for TBTN is that it provides a “safe space” for survivors of SGBV to speak out about violence. I personally don’t use that phrase because I don’t feel that I can live up to such a profound promise. I have been mulling over what kind of space we do offer to survivors, if it’s not a “safe space.” From my experience attending and speaking at TBTNs, I have found that those who stay for the speak out and who are actively listening, establish a profound presence and maintain a space that is unlike any other I have experienced. It’s hard to put into words…
    Anyway, if either of you have suggestions, there is a ‘contact us’ form on the website– I made and maintain the site, so the messages are forwarded to my email. I would love to hear any ideas you have and would greatly appreciate your feedback! Also, if you haven’t heard, we are publishing a journal about violence on campus [www.rutgerstbtn.com/saturdaynight]. To make a long story short, the journal will hopefully be sent to the printing company this week. If either of you would like to write something, let me know and I will send it off once I receive your submission.
    ps: this is music to my ears –> “Indeed, this is a world hostile to survivors, but this is evidence that we need to stay united. Together, we’re a force to contend with! Together, we’re strong!”

  4. mokeekee
    Posted May 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Wow that is so twisted… between the Chicago Take Back The Night and now this… things like this happening definitely need to be talked about. Whether the people did it to scare the protesters or because they had a problem with the police – either way they were not being the least bit considerate to the survivors and supporters of the event. Really makes me realize why take back the nights are so friggin important

  5. JessT
    Posted May 2, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    “Indeed, this is a world hostile to survivors, but this is evidence that we need to stay united. Together, we’re a force to contend with! Together, we’re strong!”

  6. Dena
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Wow, this is absolutely appalling. I led the Take Back the Night March at Colgate University this semester and we had some insults hurled at us from residence halls and fraternities, but damn… garbage?
    I’m glad y’all went on with the march, however. Great job and continue to fight the violence!

  7. redvsblue
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    This is just disgusting!! Seriously, what is the matter with people?

  8. Ariel
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    During our march for TBTN we had around 4-6 cars of men slowing down and cat-calling us. It was demeaning as ever, but reminded us why we were marching.
    It makes me sad that people find what should be a meaningful event controversial and thus must create backlash. I’m sorry this happened to you, but I’m glad you did it anyway.

  9. redvsblue
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    It makes me sad too. I keep hearing about these things happening at TBTNs this year. Is there a rising backlash or has it always been like this? I feel like it’s getting worse…

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