DePaul students rally for sexual assault awareness at Take Back the Night 2014

The annual Take Back the Night event occurred April 24 at the Student Center, with students calling to raise awareness and talk about sexual assault policies.

“We want to use it as a way to raise awareness,” junior Sam Lowy, an organizer of the event, said. “We also want people to get together to talk about change.”

The event began with a student-led rally at the James Egan statue outside of the Student Center, where numerous speakers discussed accountability on the behalf of DePaul, ending rape culture, domestic violence and transforming anger into change, among other issues, to a large group consisting of both students and staff members.

“We chose the speakers based on who we knew and liked, and who would have something smart to say,” Lowy said. “We also chose speakers who would contribute to a diverse discussion on these issues,” sophomore Laura Springman, another organizer of Take Back the Night, added.

After the planned speakers, the crowd gathered outside of the Student Center and passed around the megaphone to let others speak on issues related to sexual abuse.

A rape survivor at DePaul University spoke about her experience, and discussed her anger at the banners placed in Arts and Letters April 23, blaming the athletics department for not taking accountability for sexual assault.

“I chose to speak because I was mad at the signs,” the survivor said. “People like to make big claims, but they don’t understand what actually happened.”

Although much of the focus at the event was on how DePaul does not address rape culture or take accountability, the survivor was happy with how DePaul dealt with her attack.

“I have never been more proud to be a DePaul student,” she remarked. “Honestly, I’m glad that it happened to me [instead of someone else], because I am not the type of person who just lets things happen to me.”

The rally led into a march around the campus, beginning at the Student Center, and passing by many of the dorms and down Fullerton Avenue. The march was filled with chants promoting sexual consent and the end of patriarchy, ending with the phrase: “We have the power, we have the might! Take back the streets! Take back the night!”

DePaul Public Safety blocked off parts of Clifton Avenue and Belden Avenue in order to facilitate the planned march.

The event culminated in peace circles, facilitated by Dr. Ann Russo of the Women and Gender Studies Department and members of Building Communities, Ending Violence, a group of DePaul community members working towards ending oppression and violence in communities. The peace circles consisted of a conversation on numerous issues, through discussions in small groups, and hosted approximately 50 students.

One of the overall goals of the night was to create discussion on campus about the end of rape culture at DePaul.

“Rape culture works to make the issue [of sexual assault] invisible, to minimize its impact, to blame and shame the victim rather than to hold the person who chose to rape accountable, and to generally push it under the rug rather than to address it,” Dr. Ann Russo said.

The organizers were encouraged that their event would help to promote change in policies at DePaul regarding sexual assault.

“People want to distance themselves from the issue,” Springman said. “But this is an issue at DePaul, and we want people to talk about it.”

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