“We have the right to not be scared at night”: SOGS’ Take Back the Night March & Rally
Jackie Reed, the Women’s Concerns Commissioner for the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) organized and led the march with passion. She walked through campus wearing a t-shirt that said: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fundamental Human Rights.” She held a bullhorn in the air and chanted “We have the right to not be scared at night” while pumping her fist.
On Wednesday afternoon, a group of graduate students marched through Western’s campus for Take Back the Night: a march and rally against sexual violence.
The march did a loop through Western’s campus. Along the way, they encountered their fair share of haters. At one point, two men yelled at Reed to “get a job.” She turned around and proudly replied: “This is my job.”
“People push back against you because it makes them uncomfortable,” says Reed. “I think it’s important to do things that make people a little bit uncomfortable because they may start questioning their values and beliefs.”
Reed shared that she is a survivor of date rape, misogyny, and an abusive relationship. She also knows many other people are too. In her opening presentation, Reed reported the results of a poll that found 71% of Western students have experienced sexual violence.
SOGS Graduate Peer Advisor for Academic Matters Ariana Potichnus says this percentage is far too high. She says, “I’ve been hearing from a lot of graduate students that there’s been a lot of sexual impropriety that’s been negatively affecting their ability to do their graduate work.”
Both Reed and Potichnus say that misogyny runs rampant on Western’s campus.
Reed calls it “insidious.” She brings up the controversial street party banner some male students hung a few weeks ago on fake homecoming. “I think [marches] like this are important because we need to make people aware that their words can hurt, even if they say: ‘It’s just a joke.’”
These street party banners inspired Reed to paint a sign for the march that says, “Queen’s and Western students are tired of swallowing your misogyny.”
Other protesters made powerful and poignant signs to accompany Reed’s that said: “End Violence Against Women,” “My Body, My Rights,” and “Sexual Violence Affects Us ALL.”
Reed shared that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. This is why the Women’s Concerns Committee decided to rename the event from “Take Back the Campus” to “Take Back the Night”; because sexual violence is not just a campus issue.
Women’s Concerns Committee member Danica Facca wishes more than 30 students attended the rally. According to her, “It wasn’t the idea of a march wasn’t well received but it’s actually putting yourself in a march and being in that physical space that [makes people] really vulnerable. Some people might not feel comfortable and you can’t blame them for that.”
“When it happened to me after college, I thought it was my fault,” says Reed. “I didn’t tell anyone what happened. I thought it was all on me.”
Reed says that her introduction to sexual assault was all about what girls can do to prevent sexual violence from happening to them. “They put the onus on us and told us that we were the ones who had to be responsible for our sexuality. So, I think it’s really important that we push back against that.”
Despite the dark topic of sexual violence and her personal connection to it, Reed remains optimistic all afternoon. She says, “I think it’s important that women know that we will believe them. That they will be supported. That they can have a voice.”
The goal of Take Back the Night is to break the silence surrounding discussions about sexual violence. And although it was a small group, they certainly made noise.
Take Back the Night will be holding another march in spring 2020.