Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Take Back the Night

by Jordan Kisner

The orange bubble has burst. Last week, one act of ‘public lewdness’ and one act of sexual assault – both perpetrated by adult men not affiliated with the university against female undergraduates — have forced the Princeton community to recognize the unfortunate reality that sexual harassment and sexual assault do happen here.

For the first time since I have been a student here (four years), women – and specifically women — are being exhorted by the university not to walk alone at night, or to stay in academic buildings after hours. For the first time in recent memory, I felt compelled to wait for my male friend to walk me home from the street rather than just leaving alone when I felt like it.

We are no longer safe at night.

Of course, this shift is more symbolic than actual. It was probably never a great idea to traipse alone around deserted areas of campus at 3 a.m. (something I have done, many, many times), and sexual assault is still a crime that, on this campus, happens mostly in dorm rooms, not on dark pathways, with people the victims know, not lurking strangers.

What has changed is less our actual safety than our sense of security. Sexual assault, which we always knew to be a possibility, now seems to be lurking around every corner. Whether a response to an actual loss of security or a symbolic loss of innocence, this newfound fear is real and it is not something to which we can resign ourselves.

This year’s Take Back the Night event (happening this Thursday at 7:30 on the Frist South Lawn) will be a crucial step in reclaiming our campus from the events of last week, and from the far more frequent incidents of sexual assault that go unpublicized. It is imperative that we come together as members of this community to take a stand against sexual assault in all its forms, to stand in solidarity with survivors, and to commit ourselves to creating a campus where we do not have to be afraid. This is the first step toward healing and change.

Be there.

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