Your $79.75 Pays for Safe Way Home: Why Risk It?
“Every minute and 48 seconds a woman gets raped or sexually assaulted,” says Joe Todisco. On Thursday, October 21, those that attend “Take Back the Night” will be reminded of this powerful message.
“Take Back the Night” is an annual event sponsored by the Anti-Rape Task Force (ARTF), which is a part of the Health Education and Human Services (HEHS) division of Sub-Board I, Inc. Todisco, a member of ARTF, says that the event is a yearly reminder that rape and sexual assault do happen. It is a way to make people aware of what goes on and for them to talk about an otherwise unmentionable subject. “Silence is our worst enemy,” he says. “And this night is a way to break that silence.”
Each person will receive a candle as they enter Harriman Hall, and while they listen to the poetry, stories from survivors, and speak-outs featured at the event, they will pass a flame along. A candle will be lit with each minute and 48 seconds that passes. It is a moving experience, says Todisco. “You’ll be standing there listening to the poetry or speakers, and look around to see that so many candles have already been lit in a short time.”
Along with the scheduled speakers and candle lighting that will take place, there will also be a mini walk station set up, demonstrating ARTF’s main responsibility. ARTF members and volunteers will be available to walk the people that attended to their cars after the event.
Founded in 1975 by two women, ARTF began as a simple walk service to promote women’s safety on campus. Today the program continues to promote safety through the walk services, but also through a van service.
There are two main walk stations, the second opening up just this year. One is located outside the Undergraduate Library in Capen, a high traffic area at night, and the new addition is on the first floor of Diefendorf on South Campus. The stations are run from 7:45 p.m. to midnight every Sunday through Thursday, and will usually seat between seven and ten “walkers.” It is the duty of these walkers to ask every individual, man or woman, that passes if they would like a walk to their destination. This could be to a car, a dorm building, or even another building on campus. Their main purpose is to promote safety.
The walkers at the stations consist of work-study students, volunteers, and students completing community service. After doing a brief check to make sure that the individual is not violent, they are required to go through two hours of training before they are allowed to sit at the station and serve for ARTF. They are trained on rape and sexual assault issues and statistics, like how one in every four women will be raped or sexually assaulted by the time she graduates college, and the same for one in every ten men. “A big myth is that these things do not happen to men,” Todisco says. “But they do, just not as frequently.”
Todisco got involved with ARTF when he was a freshman at the university. First, it was his work-study job, but just a few days after he began, he was promoted to Nightly Coordinator and now, as a third year student, Todisco serves as the North Campus Services Supervisor. He is in charge of organizing the walkers, the paperwork, and making sure that everything runs smoothly at the station.
A typical night for the North Campus station will be walking around 30 to 40 people to their destination. If a person accepts the walk, their class status (undergraduate or graduate) and destination is logged in the ARTF binder. Personal information, like name or ID number, is not taken. The purpose of asking class status before the walk is to keep a record that shows that ARTF is being used by students of all class levels and deserves to be funded. After the information is logged, the ARTF walker or walkers – they usually make an effort to go in pairs if there are enough – take a walkie-talkie, a mag-light, and a refelective vest to wear over their outer-most layer of clothing.
Another service that ARTF provides is the van service. It is available on South Campus and will take students anywhere that is within a mile and a half. The only exception is North Campus because there is already the bus system set up to transport students between North and South Campus. The van service runs every night and will follow the same route, with two of its major pick up stations being outside of Goodyear Hall and at Main Circle. Students are encouraged to use the van service to take them to off campus apartments, restaurants, or even bars.
“It’s not about your personal life, it’s about your safety,” Todisco explains. “Obviously you can’t get in the van with open containers or bottles, but it will take you anywhere you want to go, which a lot of people don’t know.”
ARTF is always seeking new volunteers. Todisco recognizes that ARTF is often criticized for allowing people to complete their community service hours that they received for violating a campus rule or regulation (those who did anything violent are not eligible to complete their hours through ARTF). “All I have to say to that is that we wouldn’t have to if more people would volunteer their time on their own,” he says.
For more information on ARTF, Take Back the Night, or volunteering, contact them at 829-2584, in their office at Hayes Annex C Suite 5, or stop by one of the walk stations either in Capen or the first floor of Diefendorf.