Taking Back the Night

            The EMU amphitheater was filled with men and women showing their support for Take Back the Night this last Thursday night.  This year marks the 33rd annual rally, and featured a rally, a march and concluded with a “Speak Out to End Sexual Violence” where survivors share their stories in a safe environment to educate and influence the audience members.

            Take Back the Night started at 6 P.M. in the amphitheater with speakers and survivors sharing stories.  The crowd quickly grew to fill the entire amphitheater and overflowed onto the surrounding sidewalks with both men and women there to support the cause and the victims that were courageous enough to stand up and share their tales.  The event also included a performance by the Eugene Radical Cheerleaders, a group of men and women who protest through dance.  After about an hour, the crowd marched to 8th and Oak, accompanied by a marching band, and ended with a ‘speak-out’ in Ken Kesey square.

            The event started on campus in the EMU amphitheater, where volunteers came onstage to offer stories, support and words of encouragement and hope.  Not everyone was there to support the cause though, as one man got onstage and after mumbling into the microphone for a few seconds, proceeded to tell the crowd that, “I don’t believe that you’ve been sexually assaulted.”  This is a horrific thing to say at a rally such as this because a big problem with reporting sexual assaults is that women are often not believed.  The man was quickly herded offstage and taken away by security, but not before his comments caused some distress within the crowd.

            The keynote speaker at the rally this year was Megan Burke, a UO graduate teaching fellow and self-described ‘resident campus feminist.’  Miss Burke talked to the audience about the dangers faced by women all around the world, and specifically in Eugene, and encouraged everyone at the rally to watch out for and stand up against any violence, sexual or otherwise.  “Men and women, working together, can end the fear and can make our streets safe again,” Burke said.  “Together we can take back the night!”

            The crowd was full of men and women from all walks of life, all showing their support for this cause.  One of the audience members, Michael Forsey, is a student at the University majoring in Geological Sciences.  Michael, a junior, came to support the rally because he had friends who had experienced sexual assaults and were closely involved with the rally.  “It was strange being a man at the rally,” Forsey said. “I fully support the cause and want to help in any way I can, but I keep hearing horrible stories about the violence inflicted by men on women.  It makes me feel a little ashamed.”

            Overall, the event was successful in bringing together men and women from all walks of life and all over Eugene.  The group that gathered this Thursday showed that they care about the safety of women and want to do something to remove the fear of the night.  Women, and men, should never have to be scared to walk home at night, and events like this spread the word that sexual assaults still happen often, and closer to home than many would like to admit.  If you want any more information on Take Back the Night, their website is http://www.takebackthenight.org/

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