An estimated 20 to 25 percent of American college women experience attempted or complete rape during their college years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. This year’s “Take Back the Night” aims to attract more awareness toward sexual violence.
Part of this month’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Take Back the Night on May 4 is a night to empower those who have been affected by sexual violence. Students Against Sexual Violence (SASV), a part of the Campus Violence Prevention Program (CVPP), coordinated this year’s events.
“It’s an event where women and men unite to bring an end to sexual assault and violence against women through education and awareness,“ said Brian Tu, president of SASV. “It aims to inspire strengths to cause changes to our community and foster a safe environment for further generations.”
The event was previously called “Women Take Back the Night” but organizers changed the name in order to encourage more men to attend the event.
“I think it’s difficult when we ask men to get involved and make the event all about women,“ said Shauna Stratton, student programming and outreach coordinator for CVPP. “Women aren’t the only ones being assaulted, if we want to stand together we want to be more gender neutral.
“Rapists make up a very small portion of the population so if we work together we can create a climate in which rape is unacceptable.”
Different from previous years, Take Back the Night is being used as a launch to Greek Week – a week-long series of events for Greek fraternities and sororities on campus. Tu expects the estimated participants to jump from last year’s 400 to 1,000 this year with the addition of the Greek community.
“At a major institution with enrollment greater than 25,000 I think the attendance should be much higher,” said Amanda Smith, vice president of SASV in an e-mail interview. “Oppression affects people of all ages, race, gender and sexual orientation and without the collaboration of groups of individuals, our efforts for change are limited.“
The evening will begin at the East Quad at 7:10 p.m. Scattered around the Quad will be cardboard cutouts with stories of survival, which have been circulating throughout the resident halls. Key note speaker former ASUCD Senator Lula Ahmed-Falol will deliver a speech while survivors share their stories and give first-hand accounts.
Performances by spoken-word performers Sick Spits and a musical act by David Ronconi will accompany the evening’s agenda. After events on the Quad, the crowd will gather for the night’s main event, the march.
The night’s march will begin at the Quad, go through downtown, and end back on campus at the Segundo residence hall area. Student Housing will provide refreshments for marchers and the university fire dancers will perform.
“UCD has the highest amount of reported sexual assaults of the UC campuses,” Tu said. “Because of that, I feel like it’s of utmost importance for our campus. Raising awareness helps people realize that you are safe among friends, that this is an issue, that this does affect people and you need to be aware of [the violence].”
National statistics reveal that one in four women has been sexually assaulted and that sexual assault is the most under reported crime. One in six men has been assaulted, though those numbers are usually for boys under the age of 18, Tu said.
“If a friend tells you that they have been sexually assaulted, the main thing is to believe them and give the power back to them,” Tu said. “Sexual assault is all about power control, so you don’t want to say you ‘have‘ to report this, but you ‘could‘ report this. You don’t want to tell them what to do but give them that choice and power back to them.”
Women Take Back the Night began in 1976. UC Davis is now in its 28th year of participation. Tu said the original purpose of the event was for women to march the streets at night, taking it back, which is symbolic because women generally would not want to walk at night for fear of being assaulted.
For more information about CVPP go to cvpp.ucdavis.edu.
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.