Take Back the Night rearranges programming

Rani Gupta

Organizers have changed the format of Take Back the Night for its 13th year in an effort to encourage more people to participate in the march around campus.

About 1,000 students will march Thursday night to raise awareness about sexual assault, an event sponsored by Women’s Coalition.

The event addresses the issues of sexual assault and general safety on Northwestern’s campus. It will start at The Rock at 8 p.m. with short speeches from members of Women’s Co and the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Typically four sexual assault survivors speak at The Rock about their experiences. But this year only one survivor will speak at The Rock, and the three others will speak near the end of the march at the Technological Institute.

Co-Chairwoman Kat Macfarlane said organizers changed the program because people left during the lengthy opening program and didn’t participate in the march.

“We started off with 1,000 people, and we were losing 60 to 70 percent of the people,” said Macfarlane, a Weinberg junior. “If you’ve been standing and listening to horrific stories for an hour, it’s hard to go and march.”

The march around campus is designed to alert students to the significance of sexual assault.

“Because not everyone on campus will be at The Rock, the point of the march is to make people aware that sexual assault is not an issue that should be hidden,” co-Chairwoman Maria Steingoltz said.

The march will be followed by an open-mic coffeehouse at Norris University Center, where Macfarlane said attendees in the past have been “inspired to speak” about their own experiences.

“(Take Back the Night) deals not only with prevention, but with helping the survivors themselves,” Macfarlane said.

To address the event’s focus on campus safety issues, Women’s Co and the Office of Student Affairs sent out a survey asking students about topics such as lighting, shuttles, harassment and sexual assault.

Steingoltz said the purpose of the survey, another first for this year’s event, was to obtain statistics on safety issues.

“There had been a lot of unanswered questions about how people felt about campus safety,” said Steingoltz, a Weinberg sophomore.

The survey results will be released by Student Affairs later, but Steingoltz will talk about some of the results Thursday night.

She said the results were positive and a majority of students feel safe, but there was room for improvement.

Organizers said Take Back the Night aims to localize the issues of sexual assault and campus safety.

According to the University Police annual crime report, four forcible sex offenses on the Evanston campus were reported to UP between 1997 and 1999.

But Jamie Jimenez, coordinator of the sexual assault education and prevention program, said the statistics do not reflect the true number of sexual assaults occurring on campus.

“Some people for whatever reason don’t feel comfortable (reporting sexual assaults) or don’t feel safe enough, or would like that no one finds out about it,” Jimenez said.

She said many sexual assault victims do not report crimes, and others seek counseling at the Women’s Center or Counseling and Psychological Services, which do not keep records of how many students use their services.

Macfarlane said the students who will speak Thursday night prove that unreported sexual assault occurs on campus.

“Sexual assault doesn’t happen only in bad neighborhoods,” Macfarlane said. “It happens with acquaintances and it happens here.”