Toreros fight sexual violence

By Bianca Bruno

Last week’s Sexual Assault Awareness activities culminated with the annual march and vigil known as Take Back the Night. The event, held Thursday, April 11, was sponsored by the USD Women’s Center.

The event kicked off in the UC Exhibit Hall, where attendees were invited to view a display that featured photographs of parts of different women’s bodies, where the story of a survivor of sexual assault was written. Statistical information as well as resources for women were also on display at the exhibit and were discussed throughout the entire event.

Senior Yasi Mahallaty and junior Courtney Boyer, the two co-chairs of Sexual Assault Awareness Week Planning Committee, were responsible for organizing the event. Boyer said that promoting awareness of sexual assault is especially important on college campuses.

“This topic is a taboo subject despite it’s prevalence on college campuses and it needs to be discussed openly,” Boyer said.
Mahallaty agreed, saying that it is important for “survivors to have the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Before the march began, there were numerous speakers and performers who rallied the crowd, including a USD theater group who did an improv activity with attendees of the event. Two women advocates from outside the USD community spoke about their experiences with rape and sexual assault respectively.

Sociology professor Tom Reifer said that women on college campuses are more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population. He discussed that “rape culture” is deeply connected with masculinity.

“We as men need to change because the overwhelming amount of victims are women and the overwhelming number of perpetrators are men,” Reifer said.

The march included many students, faculty, staff, community supporters and advocates. Students who made signs earlier during the night held them as they marched from the University Center through Tecolote Canyon up through the Missions dorms and through the Student Life Pavilion during dinner time. Many diners were surprised to be bombarded with a group of at least 100 people chanting sayings such as “Yes means yes/ no means no/ whatever we wear/ wherever we go” and “We are women/ we are men/ together we fight/ to take back the night.”

The marchers then changed directions and marched over to the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice where they stopped at the Garden of the Sea to hold a candlelight vigil. Marchers were asked to say the name of someone they knew who had been affected by sexual assault or sexual violence. Afterwards, two women who are current students at USD spoke about their experience with sexual assault.
For senior Stephanie Ramirez, her first time attending Take Back the Night was important for supporting others whose lives had been affected by sexual assault.

“It’s a night where men and women can come together to recognize those who have been hurt,” she said. “It’s important to give a support system to not only those who have been assaulted but for those close to them as well.”

Many attendees were emotionally moved by the whole experience; several people present had been personally affected by sexual assault or knew someone close to them who had been affected.
For the attendees, Take Back the Night allowed students to talk freely about their experiences and offered them support with dealing with any encounter of sexual assault.