College students vow to 'Take Back the Night'

By Curt Yeomans


Clayton State University senior Jenny Lewis stopped a group of 30 marchers in front of an apartment building in the Clayton Place apartment complex, and pointed to a second-story window.

Lewis, one of the organizers of the Take Back the Night march, told her fellow marchers that inside the window was the room she stayed in during her freshman year at Clayton State. That bedroom was where the guy she was seeing that year tried to force her into letting him be her "first."

As she pointed, Lewis said the window represented, in her mind, what happened that night.

"Right up there is my story," Lewis said. "That's where it happened. That's why it's so important to me that we do this. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone."

This is Sexual Assault Awareness Week at Clayton State. In addition to the Take Back the Night march and candlelight vigil, the school also held a presentation Tuesday entitled "Sexual Assault and the History of Seduction: A Community Conversation."

During the Take Back the Night march, which was organized by the Psi Chi National Honor Society for psychology students, marchers walked from the Lawson Amphitheater to the university's student housing facility, Lake Hall, and on to the Clayton Place apartment complex, where several students at the university live.

As they walked, the marchers chanted slogans like "Students unite, take back the night!" and "Strong students, proud students, together tonight, no more fright, together we fight!"

Once the marchers got to Clayton Place, they stopped and read sexual assault statistics through a bullhorn so residents in the complex could hear what was being said. The statistics came from brochures from the Jonesboro-based Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center.

The center assists people from Clayton, Fayette, and Henry counties, and works with as many as 300 people a year, said Keri Williams, a victims services coordinator for the center. Among the statistics were figures, such as 1-in-6 men, and 1-in-4 women will be the victim of a sexual assault.

"Sixty-six percent of sexual assault victims know their attacker," Williams said. "It's not the stranger in the dark."

Clayton State Police Chief Bobby Hamil said his department has not been called to respond to any domestic violence or sexual assault cases in at least a year. "If they [cases of sexual assault] have been happening, they haven't been reported," Hamil said. Only 1-in-10 rapes are reported, according to the statistics from the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center.

Psi Chi President Megan Stone said one of the problems is that victims tend to be afraid of the stigma of being a sexual assault victim.

"We wanted to spread awareness around campus, and to let students know they have a voice," Stone said. "The statistics are national stats, but they can't be totally accurate because those are only the reported cases."

Hamil said he has been meeting with students once a month since February, and added students have asked his department for a self-defense class. Hamil plans to offer the class before the school year ends next month.

According to the national Take Back the Night web site, "[r]ape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and domestic violence are often labeled 'crimes of silence' because of low reporting rates and social discomfort with their public discussion. Some victims never tell anyone because they are afraid of being labeled a sexual assault victim."

Officials from the organization wrote on its web site that there are two different stories about the origins of the Take Back the Night movement. In one instance, the organization's roots may lie in late 19th-Century London, when women protested "the fear and violence" they faced on the streets at night, according to the web site.

The other story listed on site, says the roots may lie in the belief that the first rally was held at the International Tribune on Crimes Against Women in 1976, in Belgium. The first U.S. rally took place in 1978, in San Francisco, when women protested pornography and shared stories about how it affected their lives, according to the Take Back the Night web site.

The Take Back the Night web site lists several resources available to victims of sexual and domestic abuse, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673), and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233). The Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center can be reached at (770) 477-2177.


On the Net:

Take Back the Night: http://www.takebackthenight.org/