Apr 12th, 2019, 04:05 PM

Take Back the Night 2019

By Ali Benzerara
The AUP for Consent T-shirts. Image Credit: Ali Benzerara.
AUP's 2nd annual Take Back the Night event proves more successful and powerful than last year's.

February has black history month; March has women’s history month and April is marked as sexual assault awareness month. With college campus across the U.S. gearing up for Take Back the Night, an event held internationally to give survivors a space to share their stories and empower themselves while bringing awareness to sexual violence, The American University of Paris hosted their very own Take Back the Night event April 10, 2019, in the Amex.

The event, put on by club AUP for Consent, started at 6:30 PM with a friendly get-together over snacks provided by the Amex. As people mingled and indulged in eclairs, sandwiches, and pigs-in-a-blanket, students and faculty signed a pledge to take their part in ending sexual violence. After signing, a volunteer would crown you with a denim colored ribbon, a symbol of support against sexual violence.

Drinks, sandwiches and other refreshments provided by the Amex at Take Back the Night. Image Credit: Ali Benzerara

As people stumbled in, the Amex began to fill up and the conversation began.

“A friend asked me to come, so I did," said Senior David Sohmer, 26. “Honestly, it’s the right thing to do and it’s a great way to spread awareness.”

At about 6:50 PM, Frances Eby, President of AUP for Consent asked everybody to take a seat in order to officially begin the event. Faculty, staff, and students gathered around in a circle-like manner, and Eby explained how this event is a safe space created for survivors and supporters, and nothing shared in this circle should leave this room. Which is why you will hear nothing about powerful, moving stories shared by survivors last night in this article.

After about an hour of empowering stories shared by several women, the first segment of Take Back the Night closed. Eby began to then explain how  just as important it is to have time to share and heal, it is also important to openly discuss the issues surrounding sexual violence in society with everybody, survivors and supporters.

The discussion opened with a short reflection about what was just shared and how important it was for them to have this conversation around campus. Many were focused on finding ways to keep the conversation going outside of the event. Questions such brought into the discussion included: How do we handle certain situations as students? How do we get men involved in the conversation? What can the university do next to support us? What is the role of supporters? How can we help? Though the main question which sparked everybody’s interest was, how do we educate people about this in the right way?

Vice President and Dean of Student Services Marc Montheard signing the pledge for sexual assault awarness month. Image Credit: Ali Benzerara.

As the discussion progressed, the men attending began to become more active with most of them acknowledging the fact that they need to have more of an active role in raising awareness and starting the conversation surrounding the issues of sexual violence, especially with fellow men.

Alfio Lococo, a male student and bartender at the Amex for the event, began to listen in and felt obliged to participate in the discussion.

“I was hearing these people talk about their stories and what they went through and how they had to grow and become stronger because of it. It made it clear that it’s really important to get involved if I’m someone who wants to get involved on campus,” said USC President elect Alfio Lococo. “Whether its SGA or personal, these are things I want to speak to and know about and I’m really glad they had this forum and we spent so much time how to make sure to educate people for prevention and I think that’s what really drew me in because it’s not a witch hunt it’s about the bettering of ourselves and society as a whole.”

The discussion came to a close, leaving possible solutions, thoughts and ideas deep in the participants minds. Eby then directed everyone out to the terrace of the Amex for a candle lit vigil and a moment of silence. Before the moment of silence, a member of AUP for consent shared part of a poem written by Maya Angelou.

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when and only when
We come to it.

When asked why she chose this poem to read, Senior Jamie Nyqvist said it was because she was a survivor, perseverant, and had moving words that fit the occasion. After the vigil, the executive team of AUP for Consent thanked all for coming and adjourned the meeting on a very positive note.

USC  Vice President Chiara Amor, USC Treasurer Joathan Morales, USC Communications Director Sophia Forester,  USC President Quinn Chesser, USC President Elect  Alfio Lococo taking part in the candle light vigil  during TBTN. Image Credit: Ali Benzerara

“The university has really stepped up in a major way that kind of blew our minds. We felt this one was less needed to have a survivors support group and more needed to have a conversation and a dialogue because we felt that there has been a space provided for survivors, and we have provided that and will continue to provide that space undoubtedly, but we also needed a space were people could share and feel empowered for sharing and then have a conversation about it after,” Eby said.

Overall, despite the lack of male turnout, the presence of university administrators, professors and faculty made AUP’s second annual Take Back the Night event well-rounded with important discussion between students and staff.

“Having Take Back the Night at an American university in a foreign country is really important. We have so much diversity, but also so many struggles at this university with this issue, and it shows we can make change. For us, it’s such a new subject we are a little behind the times but were catching up. Paris isn’t always the safest city so having this event and having staff and faculty hear what they need to improve on is really helpful,” said AUP for Consent Vice President Leo Tow.

The club meets every week, and is available through email for any questions, comments or concerns. Contact them at consent@aup.edu