Take Back the Night event aims to break silence for survivors of sexual violence

Michael Wan/Staff

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The annual Take Back the Night event took place Wednesday night on Sproul Plaza in an effort to raise awareness of issues surrounding sexual assault, with speakers calling for the campus and the nation to break the silence.

Dozens of people attended the event, which started at 5 p.m. The night began with a resource fair with booths from the Gender Equity Resource Center, or GenEq, UCPD, the Pacific Center, the Student Parent Center and La Casa de las Madres, among others.

GenEq and ASUC have co-sponsored the event annually for the past several years. After the resource fair, students shared poems, spoken word pieces and songs about their experiences. Faculty members also discussed resources available to community members affected by sexual violence.

The Take Back the Night movement began in the 1970s. Jane Jang, a volunteer at the event, said in an email that the event works to empower survivors and raise awareness about issues related to sexual violence.

“(Take Back the Night) aims to shatter the silence surrounding the issue of sexual violence, domestic violence, and rape affecting all genders and sexualities while providing the safe space for survivors,” Jang said in her email.

Mariya Rybak, a core program assistant for GenEq, said in an email that she went to her first Take Back the Night last year and tabled at the resource fair. Rybak added that she was “very grateful” to have shared a space with the inspiring performers and speakers at the event.

Take Back the Night comes at a time when UC Berkeley has faced criticism regarding recent faculty sexual misconduct cases — most notably when former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry was sued for allegedly sexually harassing his former employee. The University of California as a whole had 124 cases of sexual misconduct violations over the past three years, according to documents obtained Feb. 28 by The Daily Californian.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Frances McGinley wasn’t able to attend the event this year, but spoke on intimate partner violence at the event last year. McGinley said the event is important because there is a culture on college campuses of silence when it comes to sexual and intimate partner violence.

“This event is a safe space where those voices can be uplifted and heard, where we can share stories of resilience and call attention to an issue that so often falls on deaf ears,” McGinley said.

Sam Kohn, a campus physics graduate student and coordinator for Respect is Part of Research, also spoke at the event about the role of men in discourse against sexual violence. Kohn said Respect is Part of Research began to coordinate workshops for campus graduate students to start a dialogue and spread the message that the physics department does not tolerate sexual harassment. Since then, the group has expanded to include the neuroscience and astronomy departments.

Kohn said he hopes that in the future, the event is able to garner more support from campus officials, alleging that although the administration supports sexual assault prevention on paper, it has failed to show adequate support for the event. He added, however, that the event was successful, despite the alleged lack of institutional support.

Campus junior Jasmine Amerasekera, vice president of risk management for the UC Berkeley Panhellenic Council and a member of Greeks Against Sexual Assault, spoke at the event about sexual violence in the Greek community. Amerasekera said during her speech that the campus community exists in a system that perpetuates “rape culture” and recounted examples of victim-blaming that she has encountered during her time in campus Greek life.

Amerasekera said she decided to stay in the Greek system to work on making changes and act as a voice against sexual violence.

“We can change the system from within,” Amerasekera said during the event. “We have to break that silence.”

Contact Kate Tinney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @K_Tinney.