On Monday, October 7, more than 30 UTSA students gathered under the Sombrilla to participate in “Take Back The Night,” an event organized by the Women’s Studies Institute at UTSA.
“I am here because I am a survivor of sexual assault and people need to know that it is still a big deal in our community especially in the LGBTQ community,” said Michelle Jackson, a public health major at UTSA.
Susana Ramirez, the Women’s Studies Institute program coordinator, said “Take Back the Night” was inspired by international initiatives to end all kinds of violence against all genders and is a march on campus to reclaim the night, a space that has been historically unsafe for many marginalized groups.
“Each year we have a larger turnout that speaks to the need of events like these on campus,” Take Back the Night helps bring out of the shadows the voices of people who have been directly or indirectly impacted by violence. We hope our events inspire people to take action towards ending all forms of violence.”
Before the march began, students were given the opportunity to design posters that captured the message or ideology behind the march. There were many creative signs calling for an end to violence, victim blaming and silencing of straight and transgender women.
While making a poster for the event, computer engineering major Tedesha Lewis commented, “Domestic violence is not as talked about as it should be. Not many people are even aware that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month as well as Breast Cancer Awareness month.” She feels that there should be more done about shedding light on these problems since many individuals are going through it and will go through it at different stages of their lives.
“‘Take Back the Night’ is part of Domestic Violence Awareness month and it’s really looking at how the night has been an unsafe space for a lot of people including women and marginalized people, and we really want to empower people to be able to transform that and take back the night,” said Michael Lee Gardin, a graduate student at UTSA who is also a faculty member in the English Department and Women’s Studies.
Following the poster making was the official march around the campus. The students were led by Susana Ramirez, Elizabeth Rodriguez and their friends who played guitars. There were chants of “Women united, will never be divided!” “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!” and other self affirming phrases that called for unity among women and other marginalized groups as well as for political action or activism against violence and hate.
When the march came to an end, students sat under the Sombrilla to listen to poetry discussing personal experiences with domestic violence and overcoming violence. Emily Jinkin, a women’s studies major at UTSA, wrote a poem inspired by her mother’s experience with abuse, and the effects it had on her and her mother.
“My mother was a victim of domestic abuse from her second marriage and I’m here for her. I know she is proud of me for being here, and I am proud of her for making me who I am. I am here for her and all the other women and children who are abused physically, emotionally, and sexually,” said Jinkin in an earlier interview.
Jodie Lynne Lerien, a criminal justice and English alumni at UTSA talked about the importance of being there for others who are abused and also shared a poem about the social diversity of women who have been abused. The message was that it could be and is anyone, even your neighbor.
Later in an interview Ierien said “Take Back the Night” should be held on every college campus in America because domestic violence affects everyone. It affects men, it affects women, it affects children and as long as it is going on our society is going to be held back because it’s destroying itself.”
The march ended on a good note, with students who attended commenting on how they left with a better understanding of the effects of domestic violence and a new sense of responsibility in the fight against all types of violence.
“I really liked the event and the march went really great. It was really touching listening to the poetry and hearing the different stores. It made me realize how important it is to become involved, like one of the poets said, we need to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves,” said Sandy Herrera, a political science major at UTSA.
In support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, WSI is hosting a lecture/performance, “The Faces of Violence” by Reanae McNeal on Friday, Oct. 25 at Business Building Room 2.01.18, on the main campus.