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Shari Genser '11

Taking Back the Night

The posters in this article, produced to commemorate Take Back the Night, were designed by Cara Parmigiani '12 of the Women's Law Forum.

On Wednesday, April 13 Seton Hall Law and Rutgers Law-Newark will host the Fourth Annual Take Back the Night Rally to raise awareness, throughout the Newark community, of the need to end sexual violence against women and children and the interrelationship of violence with all other forms of discrimination. With the goal of increasing the collective voice of women who demand a world in which their bodies, minds and souls are not targets of violence, this year’s rally will be held off-campus and opened to the greater Newark community.

Take_Back_the_Night1The very first Take Back the Night event in the U.S. was held in 1975 after Susan Alexander Speet was stabbed by a stranger a block from her home while walking alone. Today, it has grown into an international event that unifies local communities, college campuses, and individuals in an effort to “demand that the perpetrators of this violence – the batterers, the rapists, the murderers – be held responsible for their actions and be made to change."

Shari Genser ‘11, a key architect of the annual event, believes Take Back the Night, and awareness-building events like it, are the key to change. “Lawyers are advocates – they can fight for a cause, a corporation or an individual. By creating new laws and policies, and increasing the accessibility of resources, we can change people’s lives. Take Back the Night sparks awareness of the issues of violence against women and children. And awareness ultimately leads to transformation.”

Take_Back_the_Night2Genser has devoted untold time and energy to advancing the needs of women and children during her time at Seton Hall Law. Last week Seton Hall University recognized Genser’s work by honoring her with the “On the Shoulders We Stand” award, presented at the University’s Women’s Appreciation Dinner on March 31. “I came to law school to gain skills that would enable me to dedicate my career to something significant and meaningful. Within my first week at law school I volunteered to become a student advocate for the Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP), which gives legal assistance to victims of domestic violence who are trying to secure temporary restraining orders. I trained as an advocate, fell in love with the work, and over time became a co-director of the program.”

New York City maintains a CAP program throughout the boroughs but Genser soon learned there was no equivalent in New Jersey. As a 2L, she led an initiative to develop and establish the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project (DVAP) in Essex County, which brought together students from Seton Hall and Rutgers-Newark law schools to serve as advocates in the Essex County Family Court. The launch of DVAP called for Genser to obtain permission for the project from the Court, and arrange for the donation of supervising attorney services.

Genser’s passion for advocacy caught the notice of Professors Jessica Miles, Kevin Kelly and Jenny-Brooke Condon of the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice when she served in the Equal Justice Clinic, taking on the case of a victim of sexual assault who was seeking a visa to remain in the U.S. The professors wrote of Genser, in their nomination letter for the “On the Shoulders We Stand” award, “As a clinical student, Shari…exhibited all the hallmarks of a leader; she was committed to expanding her knowledge regarding women’s rights issues into new areas of the law and to perfecting her skills as an advocate.”

Take_Back_the_Night3In addition to her work in the Clinic, Genser also interned at the Partners for Women and Justice in Montclair, which serves victims of domestic violence, and in the Megan’s Law Unit at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. When she accepted the award at Seton Hall University, Genser summarized her formula for success: “First, do what you really want to do. If you are not sure how it can be done, then ask people questions to figure out how to do it. And when people say it can't be done, do it anyway."

Take Back the Night will begin at 7 p.m. in front of both Seton Hall and Rutgers School of Law-Newark with simultaneous marches to Military Park. Join the fight, shatter the silence, stand in solidarity, light a candle to honor the victims and celebrate the survivors, and help make strides towards a safer world.