More than 100 students marched, rallied and spoke out Thursday night as part of a Take Back the Night event, an international protest of rape and sexual violence.
The events took them across campus: After a barbecue at the Women’s Center, the students demonstrated at the rock, marched around campus, and participated in a ‘speak out’ at Norris’s Dittmar Gallery.
“It’s hard to realize sexual violence happens when no one talks about it,” said Weinberg sophomore Charley Pincombe, a member of SHAPE.
The annually held Take Back the Night events were part of Northwestern’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week, a week-long series of events hosted by College Feminists, with help from SHAPE and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault. The groups hope to create clarity and awareness around the realities of sexual violence to prevent future assaults.
The ‘speak-out’ that closed the event allowed for students to confidentially share their personal experiences with sexual assault while campus media waited outside.
Weinberg freshman Brian Bowyer,who attended the event, said he was taken aback by how many people came forward as victims of assault. The speak-out was filled with enough discussion that it ran more than an hour over schedule.
“The mood in the room was very open, honest, and non-judgmental,” said Medill junior Ceri Roberts, attendee and member of SHAPE.
At the rally, Eva Ball spoke to the crowd. “I stand with you–with joy, with excitement, and with readiness to create change,” she said. She serves as the coordinator for sexual violence response services and advocacy at the University’s newly created CARE.
According to Ball, approximately 90 percent of rape victims know the person who assaulted them. She suggests making several reaffirmations during intimacy (ask questions like “Do you like this?”) to prevent the possibility of engaging in nonconsensual relations.
“I know a little bit about sex,” said Ball while smirking and holding her pregnant belly. “The more you challenge yourself to communicate your needs and wants, the better your sex life will be.”
Ball’s colleague, Laura Anne Stuart, coordinator of sexual health education and violence at CARE, believes that the definition of sexual violence has developed in recent years and students need to be aware of that.
“It’s not just ‘no means no’ anymore,” she explained. “Now it’s ‘no means no” and ‘yes means yes.’” Stuart and Ball agree that any type of sexual expression requires obvious consensual statements and action.
After the march, the Northwestern Secular Humanists for Inquiry and Free Thought were awarded 100 multicolored condoms for creating the most colorful banner. Chi Omega and Delta Delta Delta also took home a prize for their banner together.
Several other events are planned for the upcoming weekend including self-defense classes at Blomquist Gym and three encore performances of the 2011 Wildcat Welcome play Student Body.