According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted during their time in college. These statistics serve to illustrate a clear problem with sexual assault and violence, especially among college-aged individuals. Drawing attention to this issue is what Take Back the Night is for.
Students Acting for Gender Equality (SAGE) organized Thursday’s Take Back the Night event, which has been held on college campuses since the 1970s in response to continuous violent crimes against women. The event included spoken-word poet and activist Ollie Schminkey, as well as a march through campus, and a Survivor Speakout to conclude.
Cait Abrams, a senior psychology and women and gender studies major and president of SAGE, helped to organize the event, along with Rebecca Glinn, a senior women and gender studies and public policy double major and the social chair of the club. The two expressed the urgency of getting representative speakers out for this year’s event.
“SAGE has really been focused on making sure that we are being invested in intersectional, inclusive feminism,” Abrams says. “There isn’t one kind of person that can be a victim of sexual violence. On a college campus specifically, we can get very stuck on the idea that rape only happens to cis, heterosexual women, so I think there’s an entire demographic of people that are missed.”
Schminkey’s performance included poems about their own experiences identifying as non-binary and transgender, being a survivor of sexual assault, and being an advocate for an underrepresented community. They spoke openly about being a survivor, their frustration with preconceived notions, and the ways in which modern feminism fails.
“If your feminism is not for trans women, your feminism is not feminism; it’s bullsh*t,” Schminkey says.
After Schminkey’s powerful performance and Q&A portion, students took to the street, marching in protest of sexual assault and violence. While cheering “yes means yes, no means no, whatever I wear, wherever I go,” students marched from Perkins to Trabant carrying signs and banners to express their frustration with these pressing, prominent issues.
“I think people are angry,” Glinn says. “And I think this is a great opportunity to take that anger and turn it into something positive; A march together where like-minded people who are joined together by this issue can be together and say our piece.”
There were two stops on the march where students read poetry advocating for the end of the patriarchy, and spoke out against violence, rape and assault in all demographics.
“I think it’s really cool that people are starting to take a stand against some of the things that are happening on this campus,” Olivia Forney, a sophomore music education major, says. “If we don’t stand up against things that we don’t agree with, nothing is going to ever happen.”
Take Back the Night concluded with a Survivor Speakout, during which survivors could share their experiences in a comfortable, inclusive and accepting environment. Students Offense Support (SOS) provided audience support and on-site counseling throughout the entire event.
“If you are a survivor or a victim of sexual assault, there are resources on campus,” Abrams says. “Use them.”
To find out more about SOS, visit their website, or call the 24/7 helpline at 302-831-1001.