Ohio University students march down Court Street in Athens as part of the Take Back the Night rally. The march is part of a national movement to protest against rape and other forms of sexual violence.
Photographer: Jonathan Adams
Nathan Sulecki shows his support during Take Back The Night.
Photographer: Lauren Pond
Hand-decorated shirts with empowering messages hang outside the Baker Center Ballroom.
Photographer: Lauren Pond
Apr 7, 2014
By Ellis Wallinger
Zerlina Maxwell, a political analyst and feminist, had the crowd at Take Back the Night laughing more than mourning late last week for an event designed to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence.
This year marked the 35th year for Take Back the Night, which was held inside Ohio University’s Baker Center Ballroom due to the rainy weather. This year was special, though, as all sexes were recognized as potential victims, and were asked to love their bodies and fight back. For the first time, men and non-binary genders were allowed to join in the march.
A clothes line was strung with T-shirts that contained powerful messages about sexual abuse, and video cameras were set up to capture footage of Maxwell’s speech.
Traveling from New York, Maxwell preached a lecture about the sensitive subject of rape culture. “Do we have a cultural problem? I think we do,” asked Maxwell as she described what it’s like to be a woman in America every day.
“How many of you have been cat-called?” she asked the audience. Several immediately raised their hands.
Maxwell’s main goal is to raise awareness, and included using real examples from American culture, including musicians R.Kelly, Robin Thicke, and Rick Ross. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” she believes, has an actual line of what rapists use on their victims, while Rick Ross uses the subject of slipping drugs into girl’s drinks in his song lyrics, and R. Kelly has a rumored history of rape. Despite their alleged actions, these artists are famous and their products are still purchased, she noted.
“Ignorance is not an excuse,” Maxwell said into the microphone, as a picture of Ross with a stuffed plastic bag in his mouth was displayed behind her.
Maxwell noted that three out of 100 rapists will be convicted and go to jail, but the rest will walk back into society.
Beyond speaking up, Maxwell placed a big emphasis on fault and blame. One of her goals is to educate society about the need to stop blaming victims for rape, and instead teach men in American society not to rape. She gave advice on how to express empathy to victims, because they already put enough blame on themselves.
Performances from a cappella groups, Title IX and The Temple Tantrums, silenced the room with their soprano and alto notes in songs such as “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera and “Roar” by Katy Perry.
The night concluded with the march that circled around campus and on Court Street.