Students and activists banded together to spread the word about sexual assault in Isla Vista on Thursday night at the 28th annual Take Back the Night rally in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park, which drew over 100 people.
Members of campus groups, including the A.S. Women’s Commission, the Women’s Center, Students Stopping Rape and Men Against Rape gathered for the rally, which began at 5 p.m. and featured speakers, student performances and a candlelit march. Women’s studies professor Grace Chang delivered the keynote address for the event, after which the women in attendance marched through I.V. and down Del Playa Drive and returned to listen to testimonials from survivors of sexual assault. Among the student groups that performed at the event were Naked Voices, Iaorana te Otea, Student’s Progressive Asian-American Movement and the Indian Undergraduate Student Body (INDUS).
Chang said getting involved in sexual assault education was the first political activity she ever took part in. She said she thought the rally provided sexual assault survivors with a much-needed opportunity to share their stories.
Take Back the Night is a weeklong series of events designed to inform students about the prevalence of sexual violence at UCSB. At the beginning of the week, Take Back the Night organizers hammered 500 pinwheels into the grassy areas on campus to commemorate the estimated number of sexual assaults that occur on campus and in Isla Vista every year. On Thursday morning, members of Students Stopping Rape organized the Clothesline Project in which pieces of clothing inscribed with the stories of sexual assault survivors were pinned up on in the Arbor.
Rally organizer Meredith Donin, a Women’s Center employee, said she hoped that women realized by the end of the evening that they had a support system as sexual assault survivors.
“It really does help people see that there is a community of support for them,” Donin said. “It takes a lot of courage to come out as a survivor, and here there is a network of people to sit and listen.”
Men Against Rape member Rhett Walker, a third-year history major, spoke briefly about the organization at the rally and encouraged the men in attendance to stay in the park and learn about sexual assault while the women marched through I.V. The men who remained discussed the factors that contribute to sexual assaults, and how masculinity and the rape culture – an environment of fear and violence that perpetuates sexual violence – affect men.
“When I was a freshman, a friend was sexually assaulted and told me about it,” Walker said. “It really affected me. Before that, I had no idea about sexual assault. Like most men, it wasn’t on my radar.”
Event organizer Nohemi Carreno, a senior anthropology and sociology major, said she thinks the testimonial portion of the evening is the most crucial part of the event, and said a survivor’s voice is the most powerful tool he or she has.
“The testimonials are the most important part,” Carreno said. “They let survivors open up and express themselves. They give survivors a place where they will not be judged and not be blamed. That is our main objective.”
Second-year psychology major Amelia Holstrom said this was the second time she has attended the rally, and she said she was relieved to see so many people united against sexual violence. Holstrom said the march down DP was a moving experience for her, and she said she hoped that it attracted attention to the group’s cause.
“Since it’s Thursday night, there are a lot of partygoers and the march goes right through that,” Holstrom said. “It’s the antithesis of the drunken party scene.”