Take the recent gang rape of a 15-year-old in California (and the onlookers who did nothing to stop it), add the heated debate over Roman Polanskis arrest for a decades-old rape case, and you get an inkling of the chilling ambiguity that still surrounds sexualized violencewhat people mean when they talk about rape culture. Gray rape, date rape, stranger rape, statutory rapefirst we treat it as grist for abstract, hairsplitting, tedious debate. Then we decide precisely how bad we think this particular rape really isafter all, maybe she was drinking, or perhaps he made interesting films 30 years ago. Thats all the more reason why Take Back the Night remains critical. Still going strong some 40 years after its launch by second-wave feministsyou know, the ones who put sexual harassment laws on the books and launched the fight for equal paythe event advances a radical notion: By verbalizing the horrors of assault and asserting their humanity, survivors reclaim what the rapist means to silence and the culture at large often refuses to hear: the victims voice.
Tue., Nov. 17, 6 p.m., 2009