Every year we hold Take Back the Night here at UCSB. And every year, after the event, one of the organizers has to write a hurt and angry letter to the Nexus about the stupid, cowardly acts of seemingly requisite antagonists. I know; I did it last year. This year, however, I thought I would try to preempt that by writing to the newspaper before our event.

Yet, I am not writing to berate those who disagree with us and choose to act against us (usually from a distance, with eggs and insults). This is an open invitation to all of those who are indifferent about our event, and a big welcome to those who don’t agree with our cause or how we fight it. This year, I am extending an invitation to everyone to withhold judgment until after you have attended a few of our events. Who knows? You might just realize that Take Back the Night means something to you after all.

For those of you who are not familiar with the history of Take Back the Night, it is a movement to stop sexual assault. It is an organized effort to end the culture of rape and fear that oppresses women of all backgrounds, races and ages. The Take Back the Night movement began as a forum for women to protest that oppression, to become empowered and to begin to heal.

Here at our campus, Take Back the Night is a powerful coming-together of women in a weeklong series of events every spring. For the women of UCSB, SBCC and the community, this is our forum. We have been working hard since October planning workshops, getting speakers and performers, and finding new ways to reach a larger part of the community.

We will be tabling throughout the week with the full schedule of events, T-shirts, CDs and more information. Here is a taste of what is happening.

Today kicks off Take Back the Night with a noon rally at Storke Plaza. Headlining will be a favorite local band, Butcheek Doofus. Our keynote speaker will address some of the main issues surrounding sexual assault and expand on our theme for this year: “Rising from the Ashes: Empower, Educate, Evolve.”

Starting at 2 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center (MCC), there will be workshops put on by various campus and community groups, dealing with same-sex assault, male responsibility, social expectations of men, racism within anti-rape activism, GHB (the “date rape drug”), sex trafficking and the military. The Rape Prevention Education Program (RPEP) peers will be putting on a self-defense workshop at 4 p.m. in the UCen State Street room.

On Tuesday, there will be a Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center (SBRCC) panel discussion in the MCC Lounge. This year’s discussion, titled “Is it Yes or is it the Alcohol?”, will focus on the relation of alcohol to acquaintance rape. Whether you think that alcohol is the root of all evil in Isla Vista or that alcohol is no excuse for any behavior, come listen to and participate in this discussion.

Tuesday night is also “Take Back the Mic” Performance Night. The evening will feature local musicians, poets, actors and spoken word performers exploring women’s issues, especially sexual assault, healing and revolution. There are open mic spots for those of you who want to share your own performance art.

Wednesday’s events begin with RPEP’s mock trial at 3:30 p.m. in the MCC Theater. This trial will simulate a sexual assault hearing here at UCSB. Come and see how the “jury” must make a decision from the facts at hand and the testimonies of those involved.

For an interactive and fun evening, come join us Wednesday evening at the Women’s Center for “Art as Revolution” Night. We will be exploring ways of healing, educating and fighting for change through finger-painting, clay, collage and a group mural.

The culmination of our week will be Thursday’s rally and march at Anisq’ Oyo’ Park in Isla Vista. The rally will begin at 5 p.m. and include performances by Joules Graves, Whiskey Sandwich, Raggs, Wozani, Impulse, Gravity Willing and others. Our keynote speaker will be renowned spoken word performer Alix Olson. Alix is a lesbian and a feminist and an absolutely kick-ass slam poet. Around 9 p.m. we will take to the streets of Isla Vista, with candles and chants of solidarity to symbolize the fight for freedom for women everywhere. The march is an empowering way to start taking back all of the aspects of our lives in which we are oppressed by others.

Now, in conclusion, and for those of you who skipped down to the end, here are my final words. Pick up a schedule from our table or the Women’s Center, or cut out our schedule from today’s Nexus. Come to some events that interest you. Come prepared to have your preconceived notions changed. Come willing to listen to people of all different backgrounds, and in their voices hear the song of your sisters, mothers, aunts, cousins, friends and lovers.

At the very least, be tolerant and respectful of our events. Above all else, try to keep an open mind. Remember, we are not some fringe group at UCSB – we are UCSB, in the sense that the issue of sexual assault affects every single member on this campus.

Tara Goddard is a junior mechanical engineering major and organizer of Take Back the Night.