SPEAC club hosts annual UA Take Back the Night to raise awareness of sexual assault
The University of Arizona Take Back the Night makes their voices heard at the Women's Plaza of Honor on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The annual event in part with the national movement was hosted by the Women's Resource Center and strives to end sexual violence.
Women and men gathered Wednesday for the UA Take Back the Night rally to bring awareness to sexual assault and stand in solidarity for survivors.
“Tonight is about the survivors and the people who support them,” said Macy Cendejas, one of the student organizers.
After the group met to draw up signs, they marched through campus and set up at the Women’s Plaza of Honor where survivors shared stories, dancers performed and men spoke about their place in the movement.
Jamie Utt, a male doctorate student in education, was asked to speak during the rally. He discussed the complicated role men have in supporting movements like Take Back the Night.
“If we say we are not part of the problem, then we are the work,” Utt said.
During the gathering, several women survivors also spoke and shared their experiences with the group. Kenzie Bevington, a graduating junior in law, explained how she used social media to disclose what happened.
The crowd became emotional when Bevington teared up while explaining how her mother said she was embarrassed that her daughter admitted what happened.
Later, Hillary Grigel a UA alumna, spoke about her abuse when she attended college. She shared a message of forgiveness and explained how writing her rapist a letter and forgiving him helped her move on.
“He was hurting, too,” Grigel said. “A healthy person doesn’t rape.”
Grigel has a blog centered around survivors of sexual assault called “Hope and Healing After Rape.”
Across University Boulevard stood a single protester. Robert Drust, a first-year law student, held a sign with “Regret is not Rape” written in black.
Drust explained that he is staunchly against sexual assault, however, blames the idea of a “rape culture” on “liberal media coverage.”
“The idea of blaming it on rape culture or ‘boys will be boys’ is strictly preposterous,” Drust said.
Aside from the occasional argument between Drust and passerbys, no conflict came from the lone protester. Drust left as the sun went down, just before the rally held a candlelight vigil.
The event was organized, hosted and funded by Students Promoting Empowerment and Consent.
The group reached out to dance troops to perform during the event. Matt Pham, manager of the Dia Clones, was approached to perform between speakers.
The Esperanza Dance Project also performed for the event. The group’s goal is to use dance to help young victims of sexual abuse deal with their trauma.
The event was planned entirely by students, according to Thea Cola, coordinator for sexual assault and violence prevention at the UA.
Cola spoke briefly at the event about Title IX, and the university’s obligation to provide a safe campus for women.
“Campus sexual violence prevention is absolutely tied to trans rights and equal representation in athletics,” Cola said. “Nothing happens in a vacuum.”
The rally has been held at the UA for over eight years. At this point, there isn’t much pushback or support from the administration, said Karyn Roberts, graduated assistant and member of the planning committee.
The event was broken into three different student-run subcommittees, each planning a certain aspect of the event.
The funding was directed out of the groups’ internship budget in order to hold the event.
Take Back the Night is a national movement that began in the 1970s. Many feminist groups hold events using the name, but not all are tied to the nonprofit organization associated with it.
The UA event was held independent of the national organization.
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