By Julia DiGiacomo
Advocates, survivors, students, and community members against sexual violence joined on Tuesday to speak out about their experiences and march in Take Back the Night.
Chants against sexual violence rang out through the streets of downtown Iowa City as the long line of protesters held signs in solidarity with survivors.
“Claim our bodies, claim our rights, take a stand, take back the night. Join together, free our lives, we will not be victimized,” they shouted.
The participants met at the Pentacrest earlier in the evening for opening remarks. Representatives from organizations supporting survivors of sexual violence described the services they provide and how to reach out for help. The organizations — RVAP, DVIP, WRAC, Monsoon, Transformative Healing, and Nisaa — also had booths with more information.
After the march, everyone reconvened for an open mic on the Pentacrest. Survivors were invited to share their stories and thoughts, and the stories were raw, emotional, and personal. Many of the speakers offered words of encouragement and hope to those in the crowd.
Certified advocates were on hand for anyone who may need support while listening to the stories. Anonymous stories could also be written down and read at the microphone by volunteers.
“I think it’s really important to give survivors a place to feel empowered. A lot of the times, sexual violence can feel as if it takes something away from you” WRAC volunteer Katie Frericks said. “So this event is intended to give a voice back to people who have been victims of sexual assault and make them feel welcome in the community.”
Frericks said sexual violence can be an “othering experience” that may cause people to feel isolated, alone, or as if they did something wrong. She said one of the purposes of this event is to make sure no one feels like that anymore.
Take Back the Night in Iowa City is one of many Take Back the Night marches and rallies internationally.
“This is something we are passionate about and advocate for,” Student Advisory Committee member on sexual misconduct Kayla Faust said. “We believe changing the culture is going to help protect victims as well as provide resources. “
The march and rally was organized by WRAC. WRAC’s violence prevention specialist Cody Howell said the group membes want all people to feel as though they a space at the event.
“Take Back the Night is not just for female identified folks — it’s for everybody who wants to see change,” Howell said. “It’s for people who are survivors. It’s for people who just want to stand by the people they care about.”
Howell said the aim of the march and rally was to eliminate the silence on sexual violence, raise the voices of survivors, stand in solidarity, and create safety in the community. He said they hope to advocate for change and raise awareness about the issue.
“I think that we need to come together to have a bigger, broader conversation about how we all can do our part to prevent sexual violence,” Howell said. “Hopefully, we can destigmatize sexual violence so we can make a change and end violence in our community.”