Healing & Rage.

Take Back the Night (also known as Reclaim the Night) is an internationally held march and rally intended as a protest and direct action against rape and other forms of sexual violence. It was originated by the feminist movement.

Thanks to an invite by Shannon Keeter, I ended up at VCU’s Take Back the Night yesterday. The event was essentially divided into two phases: a portion of speaking and sharing in the VCU Commons Ballroom and a march around campus.

While the march is the most recognizable aspect of Take Back the Night, the speaking and sharing beforehand is by far (in my opinion) the most important. It was here that people were able to share inspirational sentiments of solidarity and resistance and learn information about resources available to them.

Perhaps most importantly, it was here that survivors of rape and other forms of sexual assault were given the chance to publicly share their stories.

As a relatively empathic person, there are no words to express the difficulty of listening to people recount the most horrible experiences one can imagine. And yet, I could tell that there was no way I could understand the degree to which other survivors were edified by this – realizing that they were not alone, that this was not their fault, that there was a community of people who were willing to stand with them and actively participate in their healing process.

Yes, the stories brought tears to many people’s eyes. But for me, they were tears of rage. While I could see that everyone around me took the positive experiences of strength and healing away from these stories, I just wanted so badly to hurt, to punish the people who had done these terrible things.

I wanted to terrorize the man who had held a knife to a woman’s throat. I wanted to savagely beat the man who had raped a 16-year-old girl, laughed at her as she lay crying afterward and told her that she would never be loved now. And I truly wanted to kill the people who had restrained a 10-year-old girl and subjected her to female circumcision.

I don’t know if I should pass some moral judgment on myself for this reaction, or if it just makes me human. I don’t know if I will be able to attend this event again.

I do know that Take Back the Night is an important, meaningful event for people who have undergone these types of sexual abuse. Be on the lookout for it next year.

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