Student organizers gathered at President’s Circle at the University of Utah Thursday, April 5 to participate in the annual Take Back the Night March to end sexual violence. Over 100 community members marched from President’s Circle to Westminster College’s Bassis Lounge, which included students from the U, Westminster and Salt Lake Community College, according to Students for Choice — the group who organized the march.
As participants gathered, a spirit of congeniality connected survivors, allies and advocates alike as Students for Choice representatives passed out shirts and pins designed by Stephanie Martinez that read, “Take Back the Night.”
Before beginning the three-mile march, the U’s Students for Choice President Kiman Kaur highlighted the importance of the local march, as well as similar events nationwide, saying that “sexual violence impacts all communities,” but also noted that “[sexual violence] disproportionately impacts women of color, queer and trans folks, and young people.”
The U is “not immune to the pervasiveness” of sexual violence, Kaur said as she applauded students and community members for joining the protest.
“This is now a local movement in Salt Lake,” Kaur said. “By marching, we are showing our campus and community that we will not stop fighting for survivors until sexual violence is not a part of the experience of living and thriving in this world. We march to show that this is a problem on our campus and that college students across campus stand in solidarity to address this issue.”
Kaur criticized some of the ways the U is responding to sexual assault on campus and said that the march offers an alternative to that.
“Most of the initiatives happening on campus to address sexual violence do not really involve students at all,” she said. “This is one way to get students rallied up to fight and stay tuned with more initiatives we put together to end the silence around sexual violence. This march is also a way of connecting students to other community-wide resources if they are a survivor or an ally that fights with and for survivors.”
Kaur passed the megaphone to Westminster College Students for Choice President Ocean Candler, who told attendees once they arrived at Westminster there would be advocates from the Utah Rape Recovery Center, spoken word performers, artivism, free food and an open mic.
As students and community members marched toward Westminster, they chanted, “We have the power, we have the right! The streets are ours, take back the night!” and “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no!”
Individuals belonging to various majors and student groups united in the chant to the rhythm of a drumbeat, demanding action against sexual violence. Eagerly holding handmade signs and adlibbing cheers, the lively march paced toward Westminster on 1300 East, gaining members and honks of approval as they progressed.
In light of the #MeToo movement and sexual violence occurring on campus, the Take Back the Night rally is only one of many events planned for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). According to the Center for Student Wellness, SAAM intends to “highlight the history and culture of sexual violence, to educate, raise awareness and rejuvenate prevention efforts.”
“The importance of this movement is to give power back to students and to stand together as a community to be clear about our commitment to ending sexual violence,” Kaur said in an interview. “This march is important because when we walk across neighborhoods and walk by people driving while chanting to stop the violence, we are showing our greater community that we are going to do whatever it takes to change the culture we live in today, to eliminate shaming and victim blaming, and end violence altogether.”