One in four college women have been sexually assaulted in their four years on campus, according to the National Institute of Justice. Showing no indifference to this statistic, Students Against Sexual Violence (SASV) will be hosting UC Davis’ 27th annual “Women Take Back the Night” today from 6:10 to 9 p.m. on the East Quad.
The protest will include free food, approximately four survivor testimonies, live music, poetry, a candlelight vigil and a march through Davis. The name “Women Take Back the Night” addresses women’s fear of nighttime sexual assault, and the event is geared toward minimizing this fear.
“This event really hits home,” said Amanda Smith, organizer of tonight’s event and junior nutrition science major. “People are sharing their stories and everyone is saying ‘[sexual assault] is not OK, we feel your pain.'”
The event dates back to the first protest in San Francisco in 1978. Originally, the common conception was that if a woman walked alone in the night, she risked sexual assault. Now the event addresses the issue of date rape among both women and men.
“The reality of a stranger attacking you is outdated,” said Shauna Stratton, student programming and outreach coordinator for Campus Violence Prevention Program (CVPP). “Eighty percent of the time the victims know the [offender]. Even though we use the same name, the meaning has changed a lot.”
The event is free, with funding primarily coming from donations of money, time and food. In the past, turnout has been relatively low, however this year, organizers are aiming for the highest turnout.
To assist this goal, a large fraternity and sorority populace is expected to attend. Greeks Against Sexual Assault (GASA) is a new program to UC Davis founded by Kingsley Grafft, a junior American studies major. It is operated through SASV and aims to minimize the higher occurrences of sexual assault among sororities and fraternities.
“We had a hard time getting Greeks to come out to CVPP outreach events, so it’s been really exciting to see them [getting involved],” Grafft said.
The keynote speaker of the night will be Wendy Ho, associate professor of Asian American studies. Ho plans to speak against sexual violence on a more global scale, in addition to the preventable violence on campus.
“There’s a commonality of our experiences and we need to march for all those reasons,” Ho said. “It’s not just physical but also emotional, psychological, political and civil. The larger term is the darkness and ignorance that denies women their rights.”
Also unique to this year’s program will be a male sexual assault survivor speaker addressing the issue of male sexual assault. The occurrences are more common than people are led to believe, Stratton said, with one in six men the victims of sexual assault.
“Men who do sex assault other men do not identify as gay,” she said. “That helps people understand that sexual assault has nothing to with attraction. It’s about using sex as a weapon to gain power and control over someone else.”
All those organizing the event hope to bring together not just rape survivors, but those who have the ability to stop sexual assault from happening to their friends and family.
“It’s everybody’s issue,” Smith said. “The only way we’re going to solve this problem is by getting everyone to realize something needs to be done.”
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at email@example.com.