Students and community members sharde stories of sexual assault, harassment, and domestic abuse before marching the streets in solidarity this past Tuesday.
Emceed by Kathy Thao, a graduate assistant in the Women’s Center, introduced the speakers and talked about resources in the community such as the Violence Awareness Program (VARP) and Committee Against Domestic Abuse (CADA).
She pointed out to the confidential advocates in the crowd and how students can reach out to them through VARP and the Women’s Center for support in cases of sexual assault.
Liz Steinborn-Gourley talked about the origin of take back the night. She explained how it started in the 70s in communities across the country, in Philadelphia and the murder of a prominent women scientist and the protests that followed along it, in California and the protest against snuff porn and violence against women, in Belgium and England and the protests that took place because of the danger of women to be outside at night.
She stated, “Ultimately all of these marches share a rage that women were not able to fully live in their communities because of fear of harm, fear of violence, fear of sexual assault. This rally and march serves several purposes, to give survivors a space to tell their stories without fear of judgement, to educate others on the prevalence of sexual violence, and to unify us against sexual assault.”
She also talked about the theme of sexual assault month of consent and the phrase “I ask”. She gave tips on affirmative consent and how to practice it. We can practice affirmative consent by asking our friends if we can hug them before we do, by asking if it’s ok to share a photo we’ve taken on social media, learning to talk about what we do and we don’t like when it comes to our bodies, etc.
Tiffnie Jackson, the Director of Racial Justice at YWCA, also spoke at the event. She talked about the YWCA mission statement of “eliminating racism and empowering women”. She talked about the history of violence in our country from slavery to lynching to sexual assault of women.
Jackson stated, “Violence cannot drive out violence, only the solidarity of us who say we will demand to live in this society where violence doesn’t rule, can actually make that change. “
Dr. Rhonda Dass, the Director of the American Indigenous Studies Program and associate professor talked on the violence against Native American women and the real story of Pocahontas.
She talks about the sexualization of Pocahontas and how she was only nine years old when she met John Smith. How she was a victim of sexual violence and was taken from the shores of the United States before she was 13-years-old and ended up dying in the hands of disease and abuse while living in England. She never made it back to her homeland.
Dr. Dass stated, “We changed Native American women into this image of Pocahontas. Somebody who is sexualized and changed to be the object of people’s desire rather than the strong and powerful women we were within our own communities. Our own communities have been so undermined that it also leads to the fact that we are the most common victims of sexual violence compared to any other group in the United States.”
After a couple more speakers, the mic was open up to any students or community members who wanted to speak about their stories. Stories ranged from experiences of domestic abuse, bullying and harassment, sexual violence and rape on campus, groping at work and areas in Mankato, the suicide of a friend after being raped in a conversion camp etc.
One student spoke, “If we got robbed we would be vocal about it. Like “I just got robbed!” Why isn’t it the same with sexual assault?”
The event ended with a march down Warren St. to the Taylor Center.
Students with signs marched as they chanted in unison, “Claim our body. Claim our rights. Take a stand. Take back the night. Join together free our lives. No one will be victimized. Whatever we wear. Wherever we go. Yes means yes. No means no. My body, my choice. My body, my voice. We are strong and we are proud. We won’t be silenced. We will be loud. We are women and we’re here to stay. Take back the night. Take back the day.”
Header photo by Maria Ly | MSU Reporter.