Isla Vista’s Take Back the Night kicks off today with a rally in Storke Plaza celebrating 25 years of empowerment for the victims of sexual assault.
The rally begins at noon, featuring band performances and a keynote speech by Tish Martz, one of the event’s organizers. The weeklong schedule of activities culminates on Thursday with a rally and concert in Anisq’ Oyo’ followed by the annual march in which women “Take Back the Night” and then regroup for testimonials in the park.
Take Back the Night, which is celebrated worldwide, originated in Europe in the 1970s. Since then, the event, which can run for one night or a full week, has annually protested “the current climate of fear and violence that women must confront in today’s society,” according to its mission statement.
I.V.’s Take Back the Night celebration began in 1977, one year after three female UCSB students were abducted, sexually abused and murdered. The local celebration has grown to include organizations and volunteers from UCSB and the larger Santa Barbara area.
Tara Goddard, co-chair of the event, said organizers have made a concerted effort to make everyone from the community feel welcome. This year, many new events, including a support group for women of color on Tuesday and a penis registry for men on Wednesday, have been added to create a welcoming atmosphere for all men and women.
“There’s an idea that Take Back the Night is just for UCSB – it’s not. It’s absolutely for the whole community … men, women, people from all ages and backgrounds are welcome,” Goddard said. “Sexual assault … is completely indiscriminate.”
Goddard said the goal of Take Back the Night is to generate discussion, not to preach.
“A huge reason people don’t come is because they’re intimidated – there are so many stigmas associated with feminism,” she said. “We really welcome questions and discussion. … If you agree, come and show us support, and if you don’t, come and tell us why. We really want men there. [Sexual assault] is not a women’s issue, it’s a people issue.”
After today’s concert and rally, there will be nine different campus workshops during the hours 2-5 p.m., covering numerous issues pertaining to sexual assault. New events include a forum on religion and sexual assault at 3 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center, and two forums on men and their role in sexual assault, hosted by Men Against Rape at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., also in the MCC.
“There are a lot of things pertaining to sexual assault that people don’t think about – people know about stranger rape … and there is more awareness about acquaintance rape, but as an example, people don’t think about women who are assaulted in prison,” Goddard said.
On Tuesday afternoon, a female University of California Police Dept. officer will host “Quiz A Cop” at noon on the Women’s Center deck, allowing students to ask questions pertaining to law and sexual assault. Performance night, which features music, performance art and open microphone time, will take place Tuesday from 8 p.m. to midnight in the MCC.
“We’ll have local students and people from the community performing music, spoken word, monologues, everything,” Goddard said. “It’s programmed, and then there will be open mic at the end. We welcome any and all performance artists.”
On Wednesday, Men Against Rape will host a penis registry from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Arbor.
“You have to come and talk to the guys at the table, and then they can register their penis,” Goddard said. “There’s all this confusion that they have to get it stamped or IDed or something, but that’s not what it is. … It is really a certificate that says they can responsibly operate their penis. They’ll also have statistics on sexual assault and what men can do to end sexual assault.”
“Art as Revolution” will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Women’s Center. Participants will create collages and paintings, as well as T-shirts for the Clothesline project, which will be displayed on campus on Thursday.
The “big climax,” Goddard said, is the rally on Thursday. The bands Naked Voices, Disposable Boy Toys, Radical Cheerleaders and Buttcheek Doofus, among others, will perform. There will be a self-defense demonstration by Rita Ornelas and keynote speech by actress, poet and writer Reanae McNea. After the concert, women will take to the street to march while men stay at the park.
“[The question of why men can’t march] comes up every year,” Goddard said. “It’s supposed to be about people fighting sexual assault, but the march really is a space for women – it’s our time to link together. As we’re marching, the men are facilitating a forum in the park, and at the end we all come back together. Then it will become ‘People unite, take back the night,’ instead of ‘Women unite, take back the night.'”
After the march, everyone will reconvene for testimonials at Anisq’Oyo’ Park.
“The testimonies are really intense. … We try to do everything we can to create a safe space, and it is a nurturing environment,” Goddard said. ” A lot of people have never told their stories before, and it’s such a huge step towards healing. Those who have told their stories, every time they tell it’s healing. There are so many threads that tie everyone together, that are running through different women’s stories. Despite the perceived differences, sexual assault does not discriminate. There’s lots of strength to be found in hearing other people’s stories.”
On Friday, the Women’s Center will host a day of reflection from 1-5 p.m.
“It’s a really comfortable space. We’ll have a counselor there. It’s about women putting aside their stupid differences and competition,” Goddard said. ” Friday is a day to get together and hopefully make friendships that last longer than a week.”