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Justin Timberlake apologizes for ‘Take Back the Night’ controversy

Justin Timberlake performs on stage during the Wireless Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in east London, Friday, July 12, 2013.

Joel Ryan/AP

Justin Timberlake has apologized after unknowingly using the name of an anti-rape group as a song title.

Take Back the Night is the name of the new single released last week by the pop star, and also of a sexual assault awareness foundation, who threatened to sue the singer for using their name without permission.

The song's lyrics include phrases that don't necessarily support the group's aims, including "Tonight's the night, come on, surrender," and "Use me up until there's nothing left."

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Timberlake released an apology, saying he had no idea who the group was.

"I wanted to take this opportunity to let all know that neither my song nor its lyrics have any association with the organization," Timberlake said in his statement, released to RadarOnline.

"As I've learned more about The Take Back The Night Foundation, I'm moved by its efforts to stop violence against women, create safe communities and encourage respectful relationships for women – Something we all should rally around. It is my hope that this coincidence will bring more awareness to this cause."

The first Take Back the Night event happened in 1975, and hundreds of events have happened since. Executive director Katie Koestner was featured on the cover of TIME in 1991 after speaking out about being raped. The organization's website says it seeks to create safe communities and respectful relationships.

Koestner issued a response to Timberlake's apology today via BuzzFeed:

"At this point, we're going to bow down gracefully, and accept that fighting this in court probably isn't the best use of anyone's time. It's best to focus on the mission, and his stated support is important to us. Mostly, it was shocking that an institution that goes back to 1973 went unnoticed by the likes of Justin Timberlake. It shows how much visibility we really need. I think the best possible outcome is that more people know about our cause, and that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men are victims of sexual violence in the US. We hope to shed light on a crime of silence, on what is a whispered cause instead of a shouted out cause. The more we can get people talking about it, the more people will take a stand against it."

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