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Take back the night with us

A chance for our community to commit to ongoing resolutions in the fight against violence against women

The Women’s Freedom Center is the local organization in Windham and Southern Windsor County working to end domestic and sexual violence; this piece is written collaboratively by the advocates who work there. Follow the center on Facebook at www.facebook.com/womensfreedomcenter and at www.womensfreedomcenter.net. You can reach an advocate on their 24-hour crisis line at 802-254-6954. Because of the sensitive and often dangerous nature of their work, we offer the Freedom Center advocates who write these periodic commentaries very rare anonymity in these pages.

Brattleboro

For several decades now, Take Back the Night has become a spring ritual during Sexual Violence Awareness Month every April, when countless communities gather to speak out, spark change, and show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.

This year, the Women’s Freedom Center is bringing back this annual gathering to Brattleboro, and we’d like to encourage you to come join us.

Here’s why: a sexual assault occurs every two minutes in this country, and 1 in 5 women are victims of this devastating crime. Yet an estimated 63 percent of assaults are never reported to police.

In fact, it’s staggering to think how many victims each of us knows personally, perhaps even well, though we might not know this traumatic detail of their lives.

For some, it’s too painful to share, even with loved ones and, for many, the fear of victim-blaming has silenced them for years.

Take Back The Night evolved as an inspired rally for social justice: it’s a spirited march and protest, and it concludes with a candlelight vigil to help end the silent burden of victims.

* * *

What’s most moving and uplifting about Take Back The Night is the chance for us all as a community to commit to ongoing resolutions: to help stop the judging of victims, to hold rapists alone accountable, and together help dismantle the age-old myths that let rape culture persist.

Though “the night” has always presented added risks for women, it’s critical to remember that rapes happen around the clock, they happen anywhere, and they happen to anyone the rapist chooses.

And while most men are not rapists, 98 percent of rapists are men — and usually not strangers.

This is where each of us can have a further impact, though. Just as we all know victims, we all know rapists, too, and as alert bystanders, we can, in fact, make a positive difference: to protect the next potential victim, hold each offender accountable, and create some meaningful change.

It’s vital, therefore, that women and our male allies are joined by many more conscientious men in this ongoing work and at this public rally.

This event will provide a chance to help shift cultural norms and debunk the myth that this is “just” a women’s issue; in fact, rape and the teaching of violent masculinity have always harmed and affected us all.

Whether you come as a silent supporter, or a vocal one, we welcome everyone to this collaborative event.

We’ll gather at the Common at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 24, for a lively rally, including some music and a Bread and Puppet performance. You’re welcome to bring your own poster or sign to carry with a message on it, but most important is just showing up to walk and chant with us through town.

This public spirit of activism supports resilience and offers hope.

We’ll end back at the Common for a candlelight vigil, and we invite anyone who would like to say or read a few words about their healing journey to do so, or share a poem or some thoughts on shifting our culture.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #302 (Wednesday, April 22, 2015). This story appeared on page D2.

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