Students gathered in Anisq’Oyo’ Park on Thursday, April 14 for Take Back the Night’s annual rally aimed at combating rape culture and confronting the silence around sexual violence in the Isla Vista and campus community.
The mid-April event coincided with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a nationwide effort to raise public awareness about sexual violence. Each year, the rally features speakers who are knowledgeable on the issue of campus sexual assault, and promotes self-care through fun and calming activities such as decorating pots for succulent plants.
Thursday’s first speaker was Amber Amour, otherwise known as Amber the Activist. In 2014 Amber started a #StopRapeEducate campaign on Instagram and realized the power of social media as her message resonated with thousands of users worldwide. She has since sparked other campaigns, including #CreatingConsentCulture.
Amour opened up about her experiences of sexual assault and led a workshop on how to create a culture of consent. She began her speech with a quote by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.
“Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth, but it happens every few minutes,” she quoted. “The problem with groups that deal with rape is that they try to teach women how to defend themselves instead of teaching men not to rape. Go to the source. Start there.”
While Amour echoed this need to “go to the source,” she pointed out that assailants are not always male.
“It’s really important to be inclusive of everyone when we talk about sexual assault, and it’s also really important to know that anyone can be a perpetrator, not just men,” she said.
Next to take the stage was Sandra Kim, founder and executive director of popular website EverydayFeminism.com, who traveled from New York to attend the rally.
Kim spoke about sexual violence and how its effects on a survivor can change depending on existing marginalization of his or her identity. She emphasized how assault doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but in the context of systemic oppression. In order to eradicate sexual violence, it is essential to understand its deep roots in sexism, Kim stressed.
Fourth-year global studies major Mint Dalton said that hearing activists Amber and Kim speak while surrounded by other survivors and allies was empowering and inspiring. “As an activist and a survivor, it’s an act of self-care to be around others who envision a future where rape culture and sexual violence are a thing of the past,” Dalton said.
Historically, the rally culminates in a march, with chants such as “Claim our bodies/Claim our right/Take a stand/Take back the night!” echoing through the streets of Isla Vista. However, once Kim finished speaking, the event attendees and organizers decided to skip the initially planned march and transition straight into what TBTN calls a “survivor circle.”
The survivor circle took place at the Associated Students Pardall Center, and its purpose was to create a healing space for survivors to be open about their individual experiences. Hernandez said that in years past the survivor circle has not only served as a space for survivors to share their stories, but also created an outlet for those exploring their sexual or gender identities.
“At the end of the day, this rally is to drop knowledge for people that maybe aren’t as in tune with the issue,” Hernandez said, “to provide support for people who need it and to build a community in Isla Vista that advocates for these folks, who feel sometimes that they are not being supported.”