Take Back the Night is a feminist event which begins with a rally including speeches and performances and concludes with a march and candlelight vigil. In the United States and Europe, local Take Back the Night events on college campuses and city-wide are organized year round to highlight the issue of violence against women. For participants, the event can be inspiring, educational, and empowering, and it is hoped that observers come away from the experience with more empathy for women's issues.
The roots of Take Back the Night can be found in 1976, when women took to the streets of Belgium in a Reclaim the Night March. The women were angry about the rising incidence of rape and violence against women, and wanted to symbolically reclaim the night, shedding light on a serious issue and also asserting their right to move safely and freely at night. The women marched with candles and held a rally which included speeches by prominent women's rights activists, and other European cities quickly followed suit.
In the United States, the first recognized Take Back the Night March occurred in San Francisco in 1978, when activists marched through the Tenderloin, where the majority of strip clubs and adult entertainment businesses are located. Many of those activists were protesting against porn specifically and violence against women in general, in the belief that pornographic materials were degrading to women. Activists in other American communities sponsored other Take Back the Night Marches as well, and many of these local marches are held on an annual basis.
When held annually, the goal of a Take Back the Night rally and march is to educate people about violence against women. Women are more likely to be victims of rape and domestic violence, and these issues are often not discussed in popular society. The marches force observers to confront the issues, and hopefully encourage a culture which will not tolerate violence against women. Some of these marches are restricted to women only, while others recognize the harm caused by the cycle of violence, and address the issue of violence for all people, not just women, welcoming men and children into the Take Back the Night march as well.
On occasion, a community may also hold a Take Back the Night march in response to a specific incident, such as a string of violent sex crimes. These marches tend to take the form of vigils, and include more memorializing for specific victims, rather than women in general. The primary intent, of getting the population to think about the issue of violence in their community, remains the same.