The Thistle Volume 13, Number 4: June/July, 2001.

MIT Rallies to End Sexual Violence

by Jenny Erwin

Ignorance, selective blindness, and silence feed our society’s plague of sexual violence. On May 17th, members of the MIT community fought to end sexual violence during MIT’s first Take Back the Night Rally. The rally raised awareness and empowered the community in the effort to inspire action to end sexual violence.

Take Back The Night began with a speech by Radha Iyengar, president of Stop Our Silence, who emphasized that we all have the responsibility to acknowledge that sexual violence exists and to oppose it. Merely thinking or saying rape, in the abstract sense, is wrong is not enough to stop it. We must actively fight by confronting people who use sexist language, objectify women, or joke about rape. We must talk with our friends, family, and colleagues about how sexual violence affects everyone, how the objectification of women can lead to sexual violence, and how survivors need non-judgmental support.

Then, Rebecca Butler, a Weselley graduate and rape survivor, tackled the issues of silence and ignorance. By sharing her experience in an abusive relationship, Rebecca Butler challenged the taboo surrounding rape and domestic violence while putting a face and experience to the abstract notion of sexual violence. She emphasized the issues of consent, clarifying that consent is only a non-coerced, not intoxicated, not forced yes. Anything else is not consent and constitutes rape.

The rally ended with a speak out where individuals shared how sexual violence has affected their lives. People heard numerous stories that were anonymously submitted via the web along with several other experiences individuals shared in person. The speak out demonstrated that we are all affected by sexual violence. We are all either survivors or know of survivors, yet in everyday interactions we rarely speak about sexual violence. Our community must be a place where survivors can tell their stories and be supported.

MIT is a unique place, and Take Back The Night rallies are especially important in our community for several reasons. Our community’s present and past characteristics of unequal gender distribution, sexism in science and engineering, and apathy regarding many social issues all lead to an environment which fosters sexual violence. Take Back The Night events are crucial to opening many people’s eyes to the prevalence of sexual violence and empowered individuals to stop the silent epidemic.


The Thistle Volume 13, Number 4: June/July, 2001.