Protesters Rally Against Sexual Violence

Members of the student activism group, Muxeres, sit in solidarity with speakers of the University of Oregon’s annual Take Back the Night rally. The event seeks to bring awareness to sexual assault and domestic violence issues. Hundreds of students and community members attended the rally and subsequent march in Eugene, Ore. on April 25, 2019. [Jessica Smith/FLUX]

By Taylor Romano

The 41st annual rally of Take Back the Night took place Thursday, April 25 at the University of Oregon. People from all genders, races, religions and backgrounds gathered to share their own stories of sexual harassment and how they’ve dealt with that trauma. Rallies like this take place all across the country on the last Thursday of every April and October in order to protest sexual violence around the world.

The demonstrators marched through the streets of Eugene following behind a Take Back the Night banner, chanting, “However we dress, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.” This chant was supplemented with calls to action, such as, “People unite! Take back the night!” The namesake of the event captures the goal to reclaim those nighttime hours when most people are in danger of being harassed.

“When we do survive, we are ignored, erased and abused,” said Lydia Brown, the keynote speaker of the event and an avid activist for disabilities and sexual violence. When addressing victim blaming, Brown said, “We’re in a society where we’re taught to gaslight ourselves from infancy.”

Many other speakers at the event covered the same topics of victim blaming and how society enforces disbelief. According to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the University of Michigan, blaming an assault on the way the victim is dressed is extremely common.

“My skirt is not the problem. Men sexualizing women are,” said Yomaira Tarula, a UO student and member of Muxeres, a Latinx group on campus. “I’m tired of choosing my outfits based on, ‘Do I have the energy to be sexually harassed today?’”

All of the members of Muxeres also painted a skull on one-half of their faces out of respect for the people whose abusers haven’t yet been brought to justice. They also led the march from the UO campus to downtown Eugene.

Once everyone reached downtown, participants were given the opportunity to share their personal stories with everyone else. People that stayed to listen to the stories were asked by Take Back the Night hosts to not discuss them outside of that setting in order to allow the victim/survivor to share their story with the rest of the world on their own time.

Victims/survivors came together, shared their stories and showed that none of them are alone in their trauma. The event managed to created a community of belief and support.

Many expressed the same thoughts as Imani Wolery, another UO student and a member of the Black Student Union, who said, “We are tired of being questioned.”