UCSD students ""Take Back the Night""

    As a part of Sexual Assault Awareness month, the A.S. Women’s Commission presented its annual “”Take Back the Night”” event on April 24. The event was a spirited and emotionally charged rally against sexual assault and domestic violence in all its forms and promoted an increased understanding of gender issues.

    Rachel Garcia
    Guardian

    The first “”Take Back the Night”” rally was held in England in 1973, and the first American rally was held in 1978 in San Francisco.

    Many other college campuses held the rally also, and this is the third year that UCSD students have put on such a presentation. Each rally presents a variety of performers and speakers, as well as a chance for previous victims to share their stories in a supportive environment.

    “”The purpose of the event is to show community solidarity against sexual assault by bringing together speakers and performers and then allowing audience members to come to the mic to tell their own stories and become survivors rather than victims,”” said Kristen Yager, president of the A.S. Women’s Commission. “”The personal stories are the highlight of the event and are incredibly powerful and moving for the audience.””

    This year began with two preliminary performances from musicians William G and The Enchanted at noon at the Price Center. The actual event kicked off at the Price Center with a colorful group of musical guests, including The Biddy Bums, Swandive, Saba and Linda Sargent, who gave performances. The Freedom Writers, UCSD’s group of spoken word and freestyle artists, presented a series of spoken word performances.

    Tables were set up around the stage area with representation from the A.S. Women’s Commission, the UCSD Psychological and Counseling Services and the district attorney’s office. A clothesline hung on one side of the stage was full of shirts with handwritten messages from sexual assault victims, such as “”It was just a date!”” and “”He was my uncle, the funny one in the family. They’ve forgiven him. I have not. I will always remember.””

    Guest speakers for the night included Nancy Wahlig, program director of the UCSD Student Safety Awareness Program, Noah Kovner from Working Against Violence by Empowering Students (W.A.V.E.S.) and Dr. Cat Thompson from the UCSD Psychological and Counseling Services.

    According to Wahlig, the challenge in sexual and gender issues is “”to create fully respectful relationships;”” she asked the audience to evaluate their personal relationships. One aspect of a respectful relationship involves each person honoring the other’s personal boundaries and expressing affection only with the other person’s complete consent, meaning “”there is no coercion of any kind by either partner,”” Wahlig said. “”Respect is about giving attention to the other, to the other person’s feelings and experiences.””

    Although “”Take Back the Night”” attracts a larger female audience, the event today focuses on involving both men and women. Many males either attended the event and assisted in its planning. According to Wahlig, genders need to work together to create a society free from sexual violence.

    “”[The event] is not male-bashing; that is a stereotype,”” said Charlene Pasidero, a third-year Earl Warren College student who was inspired to join the A.S. Women’s Commission after attending the event before. “”It’s empowering to both [genders] and enlightening to both sides.””

    According to Yager, men are just as much involved in and affected by the issues that are presented during the event.

    “”It is important that we emphasize men’s role in eradicating violence,”” Yager said. “”Rape and sexual assault is not a women’s issue, but a human issue.””

    “”Take Back the Night”” also raises issues of campus safety. According to Wahlig, UCSD has a relatively low number of cases of assault or rape by strangers. The numbers for assault by known acquaintances, however, is about the same compared with many other colleges. Some cases are reported, but, often, many are not.

    “”I would say the greatest benefit [of the event] probably is that people who weren’t aware previously of the problems of rape or sexual abuse on this campus become aware of [the issues],”” said Cathlin Goulding, a fourth-year Warren student and member of the A.S. Women’s Commission.

    Statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or committed rape in her lifetime, and one out of every eight female college students will be raped. “”Take Back the Night”” is mostly presented on college campuses because women are most likely to be sexually assaulted between the ages of 18 and 24.

    After the performances, speakers and audience stories, members of the A.S. Women’s Commission and from the audience marched around campus, symbolically “”taking back the night”” from all sexual violence. As every battle has its war cry, the marchers cried out uplifting messages such as: “”Yes means yes, and no means no! However, we dress, wherever we go!””

    Yager agrees that “”Take Back the Night”” is an important event for empowering those who have suffered and for those who care about issues of gender and sexual violence.

    “”To provide a forum for women to express their experiences and to hear those of others is an extraordinary thing,”” Yager said. “”It is an amazing community-building event.””

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