Over a hundred supporters gathered on the night of April 20 at the UCI flagpoles to commemorate the 14th annual Take Back the Night, a candlelight march and vigil hosted by UCI’s Campus Assault Resource and Education (CARE) and the Right to KNOW group to raise awareness about sexual abuse.
At sunset, candles were lit and guest speakers took the stage, featuring Dawn Foor, CSP (Community Service Programs) Sexual Assault Victims Service supervisor. Students with candles in hand marched to the sound of beating drums, breaking the nighttime silence with chants such as, “Two, four, six, eight, no more date rape!”
“Tonight, I ask you to do anything and everything you can do to stop the senseless violence that afflicts one out of three women and one out of eight men in the United States of America,” Foor said. “I urge you to spread awareness – awareness, for it is not only the victims who understand the devastating reality of these crimes, but all of their mothers, sisters, daughters and sons.”
Take Back the Night is held internationally to denounce sexual violence and to raise awareness about the ongoing suffering and problems caused by crimes of sexual abuse. The marches date as far back as 1975 in the U.S. when citizens of Philidelphia protested recurring late-night rapes, stabbings and assaults that plagued their streets.
According to official figures, nearly 99 percent of rapists are men. In the United States, annually, 33 percent of women suffer from rape crimes, while 13 percent of men have reported being raped. These are only the reported figures. Yearly, it is estimated that a large number of these violent crimes go unreported and unknown.
Many organizations from both UCI and the Orange County community were present, providing booths and stations along the march which went around Ring Road and through Aldrich Park. These groups included the UCI Health Center, Hermanas Unidas de UCI, the Community Service Programs and many more, each one contributing different perspectives on the issue of sexual violence in society.
“This is my fifth Take Back the Night as a staff member,” said Alisa Flowers, assistant director of the UCI Health Education Center and manager of the Sexual Health Program. “It’s a wonderful event, a great time to provide education for students and to be supportive of the movement.”
Foor said she feels that more education and awareness can teach others to intervene and not be idle witnesses, which is necessary to eliminate the rape culture broadcasted by the media.
“There’s work being done to change the norm that allows this to happen,” Foor said. “What we need to work on is Bystander Intervention. Research indicates that 80 percent of all sexual violence is known about by a third party who does nothing. When you witness something, don’t ignore it. That’s the way to stop the violence.”
For Mandy Mount, director of the CARE office, Take Back the Night presents an opportunity for the community to come together as a group of empowered individuals, not only prepared to take action, but also to be knowledgeable about how to do it in order to make a difference.
“Sexual violence is still a major issue on college campuses, and there are things we can do to prevent it,” Mount said. “The problem is of an epidemic proportion. Some of the most important things we can be doing is holding perpetrators accountable and to engage with bystanders, so that we all know what to look for and how to take action to prevent it.”
Take Back The Night offered a supportive forum for those who wanted to share their personal experiences, encouraging sensitivity and awareness in all participants.
“I feel very, very strong for this event, because I was a victim of rape. It meant a lot for me to see all these people coming out here and supporting this event,” said Kristina Fernandez, a first-year social ecology student. “I mean, this could happen to anybody. If you see anything suspicious, don’t just walk by. Go and help, because, you never know. That could be you.”