Rensselaer Hosts Inaugural Take Back the Night Event
More than 30 years ago, 100 women began to stand up and speak out against sexual violence under the banner of “Take Back the Night.” Over the years, the event has returned its focus to eliminating sexual assault and domestic violence in all forms. On April 25, more than 100 members of the Rensselaer and Russell Sage campus communities joined forces to kick off the inaugural event on the Rensselaer campus.
Chanting in unison, the group marched across campus to speak out against sexual assault and domestic violence.
“Many individuals have been silenced throughout history due to an array of violent behaviors: harassment, bullying, discrimination, sexual assault, and domestic violence to name a few,” said Tara Schuster, health educator in the Rensselaer Gallagher Student Health Center, who also served on the planning committee. “The event provided an opportunity for survivors, friends, family members of survivors, or just caring individuals to gather together to create a safer space for us all to coexist. It also helps us to bring light and voice to the issue of violence, helping to shatter the silence and create positive change.”
Immediately following the procession through campus, participants attended a special candlelight vigil in Mother’s in the Rensselaer Union. Brief remarks were delivered by Schuster; Alex Blais, health educator in the Student Health Center; and Timothy Sams, vice president for student life. Sams expressed that violence takes a piece out of an individual and prevents them from thriving and achieving their greatest potential. He also encouraged students and those in attendance to pursue a commitment to being a nonviolent practitioner.
According to the national organization, the first documented Take Back the Night event in the United States took place in October 1975 in Philadelphia. At the time, citizens of Philadelphia rallied together after the murder of young microbiologist Susan Alexander Speeth, who was stabbed by a stranger a block from her home while walking alone. Since then, similar events have been held across the nation.
The program also included an information fair featuring several Rensselaer students and local organizations, including Rensselaer Pride Alliance, Greek Spectrum, VOX, the Student Health and Counseling Center, the RPI Sexual Assault Response Team, Russell Sage College, Project Hope, Rensselaer County Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program, and Unity House.
The overall event was coordinated by a committee comprising individuals from the Rensselaer campus and several local community organizations. Rensselaer members included Schuster; Blais; Randi Mogul, assistant dean in Residence Life, who also served as the committee chair; Matt Hunt, associate dean of Greek Commons; David Jordan, community outreach officer in the Department of Public Safety; and Amy Pettengill, class dean in the Student Experience Office.
Community partners included Lindsey Crusan, counselor and educator for the Rensselaer County Sexual Assault & Crime Victims Assistance Program; and Hillary Brown, a Russell Sage CAPES Peer Health Educator and Samaritan Hospital’s Sexual Assault & Crime Victims Assistance Program Intern.
For more information about Take Back the Night, visit