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Take Back the Night returns live

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Because of COVID-19, last year, Needham’s Take Back the Night event, which is traditionally held in February, was forced to be a live-streamed, virtual event rather than an in-person one. 

Last Thursday night, it returned to being held as a live event, which took place at Town Hall. 

The day started with senior co-chair Alex Goodale briefly talking about Needham’s High School’s Take Back the Night Club, and explaining how much of a problem domestic violence is in America. For example, according to one statistic projected on screen, The National Coalition of Domestic Violence has found more than 10 million Americans a year are physically abused by an intimate partner. But to highlight that this is a problem locally as well, the club members got on stage to read the accounts of “silent witnesses,” Massachusetts-based people who died as a result of domestic violence who were also represented by wooden cutouts perched along the walls.  

The first of three a cappella groups performed, with the Subway Dwarves leading off by appearing in person to sing Conan Grey’s “Heather” before the Wellesley College Tupelos were shown on video performing Taylor Swift’s “Lover”.

State Representative Denise Garlick couldn’t appear in person, but did appear in a video message in which she spoke about her time as a nurse and how it was one form of being a caregiver. The members of the Take Back the Night crew, she suggested, were also being caregivers in another form.

But while silent witnesses and statistics about Massachusetts in general may have abolished any notions that the state was free of domestic violence issues, Lieutenant Carroll also obliterated the idea that it’s not a problem in a community like Needham.

“As I was looking at the statistics, I thought I’m always the bearer of bad news, reporting on the negative,” she explained. “And then I started thinking it’s really important, because people need to understand what the statistics are out there. They need to understand this is a public health epidemic, and we need to be doing something about it. In Massachusetts in 2021, there was a fifty percent increase in domestic violence homicides. There were fifteen and in 2020, there were ten. Then I started looking at statistics in Needham on domestic violence calls, and unfortunately, they’re on the rise. In 2020, we had 95 domestic violence calls and 22 percent of them involved children in that DCF was called in. In 2021, we’re up to 110 domestic violence calls, 27 percent of which involve children and had DCF notified. So, it’s the children that are witnessing these events going on in their homes, and many of them are perceiving them as normal behavior. And that’s where committees like this [are] huge, because it gets the information out there that it’s not normal, and we should be doing something about it.”

Lieutenant Carroll explained she has found calls tend to increase in May and December, likely because of school and holiday stressors, so she thinks it might be necessary to have more interventions around those times. 

The day’s most poignant a cappella performance may well have been a video of Fermata Nowhere performing “I Believe You” by Fletcher. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, the song not only talks about believing women who say they have been victimized, but the proceeds from it went to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund. 

Both sexual assault survivors talked about the importance of believing anyone who tells you they’ve been through something.

After the event, Alex Goodale noted that while the crowd wasn’t as large as it has been in years past, she was happy to hold the event in person, because hearing the survivor’s stories face-to-face made more of an impact than over the internet.

“I think it was nice to have in-person, but I definitely think people weren’t as aware of it this year as they have been in the past. So hopefully, once people know it’s happening again, we will get more of an audience. But it was definitely nice to have the survivors in person, because I think that makes the event a lot more impactful -- to be sitting in the room with the survivor speakers.”

Noting the club will continue working at the school and educating students on a school basis, when asked if there’s anything she’d like the people who couldn’t attend to know, Goodale replied: “Support survivors. Domestic violence and sexual assault are so prevalent in our community and in the greater country, so just be aware of that and if someone seems to be struggling, reach out to them and see what you can do.”

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