Illustration by Patrick Yeung.
Illustration by Patrick Yeung.

“Claim our bodies, claim our rights. Take a stand, take back the night!” was one of the many chants that sounded through campus as a large crowd holding candles and signs marched from College Ten to Oakes on April 28.

The march and subsequent rally were part of a long tradition of Take Back the Night, an internationally practiced method of protesting and rallying against violence towards women.

The event — which has occurred worldwide over the last 30 years and at UC Santa Cruz for the last 20 years — began as a way to openly address the limits imposed upon women in various communities around the globe.

“It’s about a personal and public refusal to accept rape and sexual assault,” said Kristen Weaver, a staff program coordinator at UCSC’s Women’s Center. “Many women don’t feel safe going out alone at night. Take Back the Night is about women expressing their need to feel safe in their communities at any time.”

Communities have adopted Take Back the Night as a means of improving life for women. The event is becoming more popular among college students, due to the dangers present in college towns and the violence that often affects many coeds.

“The entire community can benefit from Take Back the Night,” said Wafa Haddad, an intern at the UCSC Women’s Center. “Women, and those who support them, should take every opportunity to make their voices heard.”

UCSC’s Take Back the Night rally included a march and a testimonial session in which people who had experienced violence or assault were encouraged to share their experiences with others.

Prior to the rally, the Women’s Center also hosted several activities including sign and candle-making. Strategy discussion panels convened after the march to brainstorm ways to further the awareness of women’s issues and their safety in the world.

“The rally and march have really been comforting,” said one student, a victim of sexual assult, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s good to know that there are other people who have had similar experiences, and I like knowing that there are a lot of people who are trying to make Santa Cruz safer.”

Many of the Women’s Center employees and representatives have lauded the positive merits of Take Back the Night, saying it is a successful and helpful resource to the university’s community.

The Center hosts Take Back the Night annually, in addition to providing workshops, internships and other resources for the advancement of rape prevention.

Women’s Center program coordinator Weaver said, “The people who work with us are the ones who need us the most.”