DePaul students take stand against sexual assault at Take Back the Night

(From left) Laura Springman, Kara Rodriguez and Adina Babaian lead DePaul’s annual Take Back the Night march Thursday. (Erin Yarnall / The DePaulia)
(From left) Laura Springman, Kara Rodriguez and Adina Babaian lead DePaul’s annual Take Back the Night march Thursday. (Erin Yarnall / The DePaulia)

“Claim our bodies, claim our right. Take a stand, take back the night,” could be heard throughout the quad on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus April 23, as protesters and marchers made their stand against sexual assault and violence at the annual Take Back the Night event.

DePaul organization Feminist Front organized the event that around 40 people attended. The event consisted of a rally and march that went around the Lincoln Park campus.

The attendees organized at St. Vincent’s Circle, and the march went throughout the campus, culminating in front of the Student Center.

Ira Lowy, a member of Feminist Front and one of the organizers of Take Back the Night, said the event was meant to address rape culture, racism and transphobia. The Facebook page for the event also referenced the issue of police presence and the constant risk of sexual assault.

“This event has been happening for 10 years,” Lowy said. “It will continue as long as there is a DePaul.”

Many speakers referenced the fact that they were happy that the event existed, but disappointed in the fact that there is a need for the event.

“The issues we are addressing are deeply entrenched and systematic,” said Lowy.

Take Back the Night received backlash because of their criticism of the Athletic Department in 2014, but Lowy had no worries about this year’s event.

“We’re not expecting any backlash,” said Lowy. “There is no community that doesn’t understand the issues we’re speaking about.”

Feminist Front member Laura Springman introduced seven different speakers discussing different issues from male sexual assault victims, overcoming sexual abuse in addition to other topics.

Adina Babaian, a member of Feminist Front and DePaul sophomore spoke about the Armenian genocide and invited attendees to a protest that took place the following day.

Women and gender studies professor Joy Ellison spoke about the steps that DePaul can take to be more inclusive of trans people. Some of the steps include having inclusive bathrooms for trans people, learning about trans people in classes, asking what student’s pronouns are and apologizing for misgendering people — referring to them by a pronoun that they do not identify with.

Ellison also talked about other improvements the school could make in regards to all students, including the distribution of condoms and expanding mental health options.

“This place is real violent for a lot of us,” said Ellison. “But the exercise of imagining how things could change is helpful.”

Many students were motivated to attend the event because of the emphasis Take Back the Night places on community.

“It’s important to hear the voices of the community,” said Liam Kemmy, a sophomore at DePaul who also spoke at the event, “especially on issues like this.”

“There’s power in numbers,” said DePaul sophomore Serena Hodges. “I want to be a part of that.”

Unplanned speakers were also given their chance to talk about their personal stories and experiences with sexual assault and violence through a megaphone to the supportive crowd.

Following the speakers, the crowd made their way through the quad and walked West on Belden, North on Clifton past the dorms that line the street, down Fullerton until they reached the Student Center.

When passing through the quad a second time, the protest disrupted a barbeque organized by a fraternity that was taking place. Many of the attendees of the barbeque looked shocked at the chanting and yelling about disestablishing the patriarchy.

“I think direct action is awesome because it shakes up people’s normal routines,” said DePaul senior Emily Beh. “It makes them aware of things they wouldn’t necessarily be aware of otherwise.”

The evening culminated in peace circles in the Student Center facilitated by the DePaul organization Building Communities, Ending Violence. The organization of staff, students and faculty’s interests are finding methods to end oppression and violence in communities — enabling the sexual assault survivors and victims of violence that attended Take Back the Night and spoke out a place to heal and move forward.

The aspect of healing was the focus of this year’s event, but that didn’t take away from original intent of the international event, which is to end sexual violence in all forms, and to make the world a safer place.

“Anyone should feel safe at any given time,” said Beh. “It’s really tragic that some people live in a near constant state of fear. No one should have to live like that.”