Eugene’s 32rd Take Back the Night (TBTN)/ Recobrar la Noche may be unusually quiet this year due to the mandatory reporting policy implemented by UO last fall. The new guidelines state that all university workers are required to report cases of sexual assault reported to them to the Department of Public Safety, with or without the consent of the survivor.
TBTN traditionally concludes with a “Speak Out to End Sexual Violence” where survivors and their allies can share personal stories of assault in a safe environment. On Thursday, April 26, however, participants have been cautioned to refrain from using names or other identifying information because UO employees will likely be in the audience, says Lisa Oland, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education coordinator for the UO Women’s Center. OSU canceled the speak-out portion of the TBTN completely.
“The policy takes power away from the survivor,” Oland says. The UO student government (ASUO), LGBTQA, Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team, Multicultural Center and the Survival Center have all expressed concerns that mandatory reporting is not survivor-centric. The ASUO passed a bill in November asking for the university administration to “restore the mandatory reporter policy to its former state, and reinstate the use of anonymous report forms with renewed vigor and respect for the privacy and autonomy of reporters.”
TBTN keynote speaker Megan Burke, a UO graduate teaching fellow and campus feminist, hopes that the controversy will add a renewed sense of urgency to the event. “Mandatory reporting is just a different manifestation of a culture that supports sexual violence,” Burke says. She will be addressing how sexual violence impacts women in particular, but also minority groups that are often silenced in the community. “This year will be especially important for allies and survivors to come together to show the university that we are survivor-focused.”
TBTN will kick off at 6 pm Thursday, April 26, with a rally at the UO’s EMU Amphitheater with keynote speeches by Burke and Kayla, a Eugene spoken-word artist, as well as “protest and performance” provided by the Eugene Radical Cheerleaders. The rally will be followed by a march to 8th and Oak, accompanied by the 30-person percussion ensemble Samba Ja and Nicole Sanguree on acoustic guitar. It will wrap up with the speak-out at Kesey Square.
TBTN is sponsored by the UO Women’s Center and Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS).