Photo by Beth Pahl/ The Siskiyou
Students and community members shelter their candles from the wind while sharing personal testimonies about sexual assault on Friday night.
Students and community members marched and chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, sexual assault has got to go" and made plenty of noise in taking a stand against sexual violence for Take Back the Night on Friday.
Men and women met in the SU where they marched to the downtown Plaza. Women’s Resource Center advocates and peacemakers organized the march. People held signs, banged on drums, blew whistles and raised awareness about sexual abuse as part of the Yell It! Tell It! Stop Sexual Assault Campaign.
Jennifer Garcia, who works for the WRC, helped plan the event. All week, WRC members have presented the Clothesline Project to raise awareness for the campaign. The Clothesline Project allows people who have been affected by sexual assault to design T-shirts, and the shirts are put together in a collection, displayed on clotheslines.
Take Back the Night is thought to have begun in England in 1877 and didn’t reach the United States until 1978. The event is designed to inspire survivors of sexual assault and encourage the local community to take action against sexual violence.
Sociology professor Erika Giesen shared an inspirational speech to all participants before the march took place.
"We are manifesting night and days of freedom when we can play in the darkness and embrace it. Take Back the Night is really important, the moon, the stars, and the night, it misses us, so we need to get back out there," Giesen said.
"What do we want? Safe streets! When do we want them? Now!" was shouted by all the participants in the march and projected with a loud speaker.
The signs held said, "No, means no," "Respect women" and "Rape is a violent crime; hold perpetrators responsible." Cars driving by honked in support, onlookers cheered and people stepped out of their homes to yell in support. "People unite, take back the night!" "Sexist, rapist, anti-gay, you can’t take our night away!"
Associated Students of Southern Oregon University President Monique Teal participated in the candlelight vigil to help protect the community.
"The least I can do is march and hold a sign and hold a candle and hear the stories," Teal said.
Judy Haas, a nontraditional student, woke up that morning and dressed up because she realized she wanted to celebrate. After years of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence, Haas decided it was time to recognize what had happened to her and share her story.
"These people, women, survivors, allies coming together and joining and saying ‘we stand here together,’ it’s very healing," Haas said.
When the marchers reached downtown, a candlelight vigil was held. People shared personal stories about their own encounters or talked of people they knew who have suffered from sexual violence. Tears were shared as people put their arms around each other, and the crowd cheered in support of everyone in the circle.
"It’s empowering to be able to march. The night and the candlelight vigil is cool because people get to share their stories and experiences," Garcia said.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that as we walk towards this plaza, that women, children and even men are suffering right now at the hands of another person," Haas said. "We may only reach a couple of people this evening, but that’s how it starts and it builds."