Associated Students organization Take Back the Night gathered at Anisq’ Oyo’ Park yesterday evening to rally through the streets of Isla Vista in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Beginning at 5 p.m., group members and allies alike gathered at the park for a night of spoken word and performances by campus a capella groups and Los Angeles-based rock band Nico Vega. The musical event was followed by a march in which supporters walked throughout the community carrying poster boards and chanting, and the night concluded with various testimonies by sexual assault survivors.

Off-Campus Outreach Chair of Take Back the Night Christine Javier, a fourth-year biology major, said the event has great historical and moral significance in the local community.

“This march and rally represents to me the voices that need to be heard — the very silent voices. There’s some historical value to it. It started in the 1970s, and it is a representation of communities uniting together,” Javier said. “It is to show that we are against the sexual violence that occurs on a daily basis and just so prevalently in the community.”

According to Danielle Bermudez, co-chair of Take Back the Night and fourth-year feminist studies major, the organization and rally have garnered more attention due to the recent upsurge of UCSB emergency alerts that are texted and emailed to students.

“I know a lot of people this year when we’ve been tabling, have been asking about the organization because of all the text message alerts that they’ve gotten at the beginning of the year,” Bermudez said. “We hope that every year that there is an amazing turnout, and we just want to go out in the community and into I.V. and take a stand — really make our mark in this community and say that we do not tolerate sexual violence. Our goal is to unite in I.V. and UCSB as a whole.”

Take Back the Night oftentimes works with various organizations on campus and in the community in order to unite different student groups under the same goal, Bermudez said.

“We collaborate with A.S. Womyn’s Commission, and this year we’ve worked with UCSB Men Against Rape and Students Stopping Rape — which recently changed their name to P.A.V.E. And we always invite the SB Rape Crisis Center to come out to our events as well,” Bermudez said.

Mariam Agazaryan, co-chair of A.S. Womyn’s Commission and fourth-year political science major, said the annual event works to create a secure and safe environment in the community.

“We would like to bring awareness to the sexual assault that happens in I.V., and basically what the group’s title is — Take Back the Night,” Agazaryan said. “Basically, at least for one night to be able to walk in the streets without having the fear of getting assaulted or having somebody catcall you, sexually harass you or just harass you.”

According to A.S. President Sophia Armen, Take Back the Night plays an important role in encouraging the student population to take action in instances of sexual assault.

“For the most part, there is kind of a pervasive idea in our society that survivors of violence must be silent,” Armen said. “I think that a really important part of Take Back the Night is to understand that collectively we have strength, and the strength of a survivor is beyond physical strength — it is really about overcoming violence and overcoming a society which teaches you that it is your fault, that essentially shames largely women, trans folks and queer folks.”

Take Back the Night will be hosting a benefit dinner on Monday, May 6 for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Loma Pelona Center. There is a suggested $5 donation to enter, free food will be provided and the evening will include spoken word performances.

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Supporters of Take Back the Night gather in a circle at Anisq’ Oyo’ Park at the beginning of last night’s event. Later, performances by various musicians preceded a rally
that started in the park and made its way through the Isla Vista community. The organization will host a benefit dinner for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center on May 6.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of the May 1st, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus