The Associated Students Women’s Commission hosted its annual Take Back The Night event, an open-mic forum for survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence and their allies to stand in solidarity with one another on April 25 on Library Walk. This year’s keynote speaker, Sofie Karasek, is a co-founder of the survivor advocacy group End Rape on Campus and a proponent of California’s “Yes Means Yes” law.
Representatives of campus resources and organizations such as Therapy Fluffies, Counseling and Psychological Services, CARE at the Sexual Assault Resource Center, and It’s On Us were present at Take Back The Night. The UC San Diego Daughters of Triton, an all-female a capella group, performed at the event as well.
According to co-chair of the AS Women’s Commission Hannah Truong, Take Back The Night first began at UCSD in 2007 as part of the “Teal is The New Black” series of events in commemoration of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in April.
“Teal is The New Black [carried] the message that sexual assault awareness and prevention wouldn’t go out of style until we put an end to all [forms] of sexual violence,” Truong told the UCSD Guardian. “Since then, Take Back the Night has become an annual event at UCSD.”
Karasek began her speech by describing her personal experience with sexual assault during her time at UC Berkeley and the university’s failure to help her seek justice. She then spoke at length about how her advocacy against campus sexual assault began when she connected with students at other universities, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Occidental College in Los Angeles, who also felt that their respective institutions were mishandling similar cases of sexual assault and violence.
“We [had] these stories that aren’t about us at all; this is something that is much more expansive,” Karasek said in her speech. “[Sexual assault and violence] is an epidemic that people are experiencing all across the country, all over the world.”
Karasek went on to acknowledge the changing national dialogue regarding sexual assault and violence over the past few years, focusing particularly on the #MeToo Movement. She also commented on the importance of “emotional accountability” for survivors to begin the healing process.
Karasek concluded by talking about her new advocacy campaign for rape and sexual assault survivors, In My Words, which aims to “put a face to accountability, justice and healing”
“We need institutional responses to sexual harm that prioritize both justice and healing, not one at the expense at the other,” Karasek said in closing. “I’m hopeful that In My Words can bring to light what survivors truly desire.”
Junior David Sibrian and event volunteer told the Guardian that he felt that Karasek’s speech carried an inspiring message.
“It takes a lot of courage to be up there and I really appreciate [Sofie Karasek] for being so vulnerable,” Sibrian said. “We really need to start talking about these issues. We hold this event every year, and I feel like we should continue to empower everyone.”
When asked by the Guardian what she felt was one of the biggest takeaways from her speech, Karasek acknowledged the need for further dialogue regarding the issues she presented.
“There is power in sharing your story in connection with other people because it brings private suffering into public view,” Karasek said. “I think it can be really hard to do that if the culture on campus is not used to doing that — and it’s hard to speak out — but there is power in doing so with other people in particular.”
Take Back The Night events have taken place all over the world since 1976 with the mission of ending all forms of sexual, relationship, and domestic violence. The conversation around sexual assault awareness and prevention is an ongoing one, both at UCSD and nationwide.
Photo by Troy Tuquero.