The annual Take Back the Night rally drew over 200 people to Anisq’ Oyo’ Park on Thursday night, with members of Students Stopping Rape, Men Against Rape and Take Back the Night speaking out against sexual assault.
The rally, held in conjunction with National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, included musical performances by Naked Voices, Ex Love Nation, Brothas from Otha Mothas, Titsofrenix, Go Betty Go, and dance performances from Urban and Indus. Other performances included an excerpt from the Vagina Monologues performed by the Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe, a self-defense demonstration and a spoken word performance.
Bold-colored felt squares with names, symbols, slogans and personal messages painted on them decorated the amphitheater in Anisq’ Oyo’. Marcie Abitia, a senior English and Chicano studies major and co-chair of Take Back the Night, said the squares were part of an “activism through art” project from a past rally.
“A couple of years ago they decorated felt squares; they were going to make a quilt,” Abitia said. “This year we’re doing a mural.”
The mural was a three-by-four foot canvas with painted messages on it: a candle with “free to be me” painted and “womyn are beautiful” over a bed of flames with a rainbow above.
“After we’re done with this, we’re donating it to Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity,” Abitia said.
Sarah Crowley, senior geography major and Students Stopping Rape coordinator, said the term “sexual assault” can be applied to many different situations.
“Sexual violence is an umbrella term that covers a lot of things, from forced oral copulation … to penetration with a foreign object – self-defense is a choice you can make,” Crowley said.
Crowley demonstrated different methods of self-defense such as grab and release, eye jab, heel palm and the knee to the groin.
Stephanie Mullen, a Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center advocate and member of the speaker’s bureau, gave a brief talk about the situational definition of rape.
“Sexual assault is a power situation,” Mullen said. “Without consent, there isn’t sex – it’s rape. If you cannot say ‘no’ comfortably, ‘yes’ has no meaning. If you are unwilling to take ‘no,’ ‘yes’ has no meaning.”
Senior global studies major Julie Santos read a poem on politics, women’s situations and issues around the world.
“I’ve only done spoken word about three times … [but] I’ve been writing poetry since I was little,” Santos said. “It’s something I’ve always written but never really talked about. I’ve never really done anything with it till this year.”
Santos said Thursday night was the first time she had performed her poetry for Take Back the Night and said she thought the rally had gone well.
“I think it’d be better if there were more people here. I’m glad to see there are guys here too,” Santos said. “I really think there should be more men here than women. It’s really a men’s issue.”
The keynote speaker for the evening was Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center spokeswoman and UCSB graduate Alena Donovan. Before Donovan began her speech, she called fellow UCSB graduate and Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center advocate Mullen up on stage to sing a solo a cappella rendition of Tori Amos’ “Me and a Gun,” a song about a woman’s reaction to a rape.
Donovan’s speech focused on the importance of imagining a world without sexual violence and how this is an important step in working to end sexual violence. Donovan shared her experiences and confusion as a rape survivor and how she finally came to terms with her status as a survivor, not a victim.
“I tried to remove the filth, the fear, with scalding water. I called my best friend and the Rape Crisis Center,” Donovan said. “I decided to report myself to the police and I was blessed to have a rape crisis counselor by my side until the interviews were complete.”
Donovan said her breakthough moment was “a righteous anger exploded from my despair.” She also spoke about her frustration in a couple of incidents when teaching rape and sexual violence education in high schools.
“There was a seventh-grade boy, we had just finished a workshop. He said, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, this sucks and all, but it will always be like that.’ I stared at him speechless – why would he think that?” Donovan said. “Then I thought, what if he’s right? A few weeks later, I was speaking to a high school group of girls and I asked if in a world of gender equality, would there still be rape? And one girl said, ‘Well, sure. Men will always have needs.'”
Donovan asked if men’s needs would always be based on humiliating women. She said in a world without sexual violence, women would no longer be a “smiling collection of scars” and men would be free to feel and love and would not be tied down by strict notions of masculinity.
Donovan concluded her speech with a quote by Audrey Lord, a feminist scholar and poet.
“When I dare to be powerful, and use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important if I am afraid,” Donovan said.
Mullen said approximately 200 to 300 people attended the rally over the course of the evening.
“It turned out really well,” Mullen said. “There’s a lot of people here with good positive energy and positive support.”
The rally concluded with a march around Isla Vista. The marchers chanted slogans in favor of ending sexual violence, then returned to the park to end the night with testimonials from rape survivors.
Carol Mosely, a coordinator for the Rape Prevention Education Program said Take Back the Night began at UCSB about 20 years ago.
“Take Back the Night started in a couple of different places in the ’70s and then it spread,” Mosely said. “It’s really an outgrowth of the women’s feminist movement. Women started talking to each other and slowly began to realize sexual abuse was huge problem. They all thought, ‘maybe it’s just happening to me.'”
Mosely said the Rape Prevention [[Education]] Program was established in the UC system in 1979. The UC system was the first institution to establish a rape prevention program systemwide. Mosely said she would like more people to recognize Take Back the Night, but UCSB has a “pretty good level of awareness.”
“There’s the Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe, Take Back the Night, Students Stopping Rape, Men Against Rape, and there’s some support from A.S.,” Mosely said.
Abitia said the march was a success in comparison to past events.
“We didn’t have anything thrown at us this year,” Abitia said. “I count that as a success.”
Carl Barnes, a graduate student in philosophy and a member of Students Stopping Rape and Men Against Rape, said he got involved with the organizations after he attended a Take Back the Night rally.
“When I heard the testimonials it hit me really hard,” Barnes said. “I went to Men Against Rape and learned more about it. I’m always satisfied to see anyone here. I think it went well.”