Every fall at Kenyon, students put on a week of Take Back the Night (TBTN) programming designed to educate the community about proper sexual conduct and how to stay safe on campus.
TBTN events on other college campuses are usually held in the spring, according to Peter Granville ’16 and Christina Franzino ‘16, co-directors of Kenyon’s TBTN program. At Kenyon, however, TBTN week takes place in the fall, in an effort to educate students about consent and sexual assault during the “red zone,” a time when statistics indicate college students face higher rates of sexual assault.
“[The timing of TBTN] is meant to be in line with the theoretical approach that we want to do it when it’s most useful,” Granville said. “Although other colleges often do it in April, we believe that the most good can be done early in the year.”
TBTN’s primary goal, according to Granville and Franzino, is to teach students about consent and to support and give voice to survivors of sexual assault.
Events this year include a “Speak Out” meeting, where survivors of sexual assault are encouraged to share their experiences in a safe space, as well as discussion groups, a self-defense demonstration and a showing of the film The Hunting Ground, a documentary detailing the threat of sexual assault college students face.
Typically there has also been a “Light up the Night Carnival” at the end of the week, where student organizations sponsor booths and all money raised is donated to the New Directions shelter in Mount Vernon. This year, however, the carnival will be replaced by a gala in the Gund Ballroom, featuring “mocktails,” hors d’oeuvres and music.
The carnival never seemed connected with the rest of the week and didn’t raise much money for New Directions, According to Franzino and Granville.
Franzino said the gala “would maybe strike a better balance between … having a more intimate gathering while still respecting the mood of the week.”
Above all, Granville and Franzino stressed the importance of teaching all students about their rights and responsibilities.
The two noted that some students harbor a misunderstanding that the programming is just for women.
“Just like everyone can be a survivor, anyone can be a perpetrator of sexual misconduct and that’s really important to note,” Franzino said. The programming is designed to be inclusive, stressing the importance of consent.
The misunderstanding that TBTN is an event solely for women and excludes men was exemplified last year when remarks construed by many as sexist, and threats directed toward the Crozier Center for Women, were posted on the social app Yik Yak; event supplies being stored in the Crozier lounge were also stolen.
TBTN advisor Lacey Filkins believes attacks of this nature result from a misperception of the event by certain members of the community who see it as being specifically for women. While Crozier has hosted TBTN events in the past, it has never played an active role in organizing it. TBTN is an independent organization, unconnected with Crozier or any other group at Kenyon — though many organizations, including Crozier, co-sponsor events during the week.
Dalton White ’16 said, as a man, he has never felt unwelcome at a TBTN event. Even though he has only ever been a passive bystander at events, White thinks that implicitly supporting the events “is just as great [as being active] as long as you are very respectful.”
Filkins attributes last year’s issues largely to the anonymity of Yik Yak and thinks the posts were the work of a small group of people. “I don’t feel like this campus really believes in any of what happened last year,” she said, characterizing Kenyon as “a safe place to have these discussions.”
Filkins hopes anyone who perceives TBTN as “an event for women against men” would feel comfortable voicing their concerns at an event or with her. However, she said, “your opinion doesn’t protect you from being hateful.”
To reinforce the inclusiveness of the week, TBTN is discontinuing separate discussion groups for men and women.
While TBTN only lasts one week, Franzino is focused on getting TBTN’s message out to as many people as possible. “The only way that Take Back the Night is going to manifest itself in something positive beyond this week is if our entire community participates,” she said.