Marchers “take back the night” in Thursday’s rally against sexual and domestic violence
Claire Brown, a UO freshman and political science major, held a sign that read “Shatter The Silence,” at Thursday night’s Take Back The Night rally. She said she has a responsibility to uplift and honor the survivors of sexual violence.
“I march because the violence experienced by women in our communities is real. We demand change. We should not have to be afraid of the dark anymore,” Brown said.
It’s been 40 years since Take Back The Night first crowded the streets of Eugene, uniting students and community members to march for an end to sexual and domestic violence. The name of the annual rally represents the unsafe feeling many women have when walking the streets alone after dark. As the decades have passed, the faces of marchers have changed, but according to Itzel Chavez, Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator at University of Oregon’s Women’s Center, the importance of the march has not.
Chavez chose this year’s theme to highlight indigenous and marginalized groups after analyzing the book “The Round House,” which was provided to first-year students at UO.
“It talks about how tribal nations don’t have the ability to prosecute perpetrators who are non-native and come onto reservations and commit these crimes against native women. There’s a huge loophole in the legal system that allows these people to act without consequence,” Chavez said. “I want to amplify a voice who, for centuries, has been purposely silenced by the government.”
Chavez said the threats to under-represented women are not being addressed and that this year’s rally is in response to the lack of support.
“This oppression continues and nobody talks about it. I want to amplify a voice that’s been purposefully silenced for centuries by the government,” Chavez said. “This is what happens when you silence a group of people and make them vulnerable.”
The rally began at 6 p.m. with volunteers passing out red bracelets as people began to fill up the area surrounding the amphitheatre. Fatima Pervaiz, Director of the Women’s Center and one of the event’s organizers, explained the significance of the color red in following this year’s theme.
“The color red commemorates missing and murdered indigenous women, of which there are over a thousand, and this is something that we need to raise awareness about,” Pervaiz said.
The podium came alive with a number of speakers representing different marginalized groups within the UO community. Pervaiz and Chavez had gone to great lengths to make sure the evening is an all-inclusive event that gives individuals of all walks-of-life an opportunity to march in solidarity for a unifying cause.
“That’s a huge part of what we do here. We validate people’s experiences and affirm that we believe them, we support them and that it was not their fault,” Pervais said.
Leah Cruz is a member of the UO Veteran and Family Student Association. Cruz served as a medic in the United States Air-Force from 2009 to 2014, before heading back to school to earn a degree in psychology. She fought back tears as she spoke to the crowd about the veteran experience within college upon returning from duty.
“Approximately 400 student veterans walk among us on campus at any one time.The veteran identity is vast and diverse, but we do share one common thread. We each care deeply about the state of the nation that we call America,” Cruz said. “My mission has been to increase the awareness and empower women who serve or have served in the military.”
Just after 7 p.m., hundreds of protesters filled the streets for a peaceful, police-escorted march into downtown Eugene. Passers-by joined the march as they made their way through the city, chanting and waving signs.
The march came to an end at the Atrium building in downtown Eugene, which held the final event of the evening. Hosted by the Sexual Assault Support Services of Lane County, the Survivor Speak-out portion of the rally, according to Pervaiz, allowed people to share their personal stories and experiences involving sexual and domestic violences with a little more privacy than the public rally.
“There’s no media coverage inside the event. It’s more intimate, whereas the rally and the march is more of a public forum,” Pervaiz said. “If things have surfaced while marching or at the rally, or if someone recognizes that their feelings are valid and that they did experience sexual or domestic violence, sometimes it’s healing or cathartic to say your story out loud.”
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