Students walking around campus during the week of April 11-15 will notice a new addition to the lawns. Now the posters, advertisements and campaign banners share a space with hundreds of brightly colored pinwheels on lavender stakes.
UCSB’s Take Back the Night made these markers to serve as a visual reminder of the sexual assaults that occur in our community — both on campus and in Isla Vista. The 500 pinwheels represent the 500 sexual assaults that take place every year just in this area. The reported number of assaults in our community, taken from the UCSB Clery Report, which publishes all reported crimes on college campuses and the surrounding areas, is on average 25 per year.
However, through repeated anonymous surveys in our community, it has been determined that the number of assaults that are reported to authorities represents just 5 percent of the total number of assaults that occur. This means that sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in the U.S., according to the 1992 report by the National Victim Center, bringing the number of assaults that occur in our community to 500 per year. In order for this problem to be truly addressed, we all must look at how our actions contribute to rape culture. Everything from using derogatory names toward women to creating an atmosphere in which survivors are not trusted and are blamed for a crime committed against them allows rape and sexual assault to continue.
The pinwheel campaign is an important aspect of this year’s “Take Back the Night” — an event dedicated to raising awareness about sexual assault and rape culture. Our events serve as a space for survivors to heal, a place of empowerment for everyone who is affected by sexual assault and a forum to make our voices heard. Although most assaults are committed by men against women, sexual assault is not just an issue for women, so it is crucial that both men and women work together to address actions and attitudes. Considering that one in four college-aged women will be assaulted before she reaches the age of graduation, we must commit ourselves to building support for survivors and showing that sexual assault and intimidation will not be tolerated.
Our mission statement proclaims that “Take Back the Night” is not simply a few workshops that touch upon topics of violence, or dynamic speakers, or self-defense workshops. It’s not just women’s performance, artwork and self-expression. It is not just about celebrating women’s solidarity or about walking through the streets at night. The sum is greater than the parts — this event is about saving lives. It is about transforming victims into survivors. It is about taking every possible precaution of education, self-defense, awareness and protest so that it doesn’t happen again.”
So when you’re walking across campus, stop — even for a second — and look at the pinwheels. Realize that sexual assault affects us all, but we do have the power to confront it. This year’s “Take Back the Night” week of events will take place April 11-15. You can pick up a calendar of events at the Women’s Center and all over campus. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Help us take back our community and take back the night!
Jessie Nieblas is a freshman women’s studies major.