Students march to protest sexual violence


By Kat Prosachik

“Sexist, racist, anti-gay, don’t you take our night away.”

Men and women chanted this as they marched through the streets of Oakland last night for Take Back the Night, Pitt’s Campus Women’s Organization annual march to bring attention to sexual violence on campuses and throughout the world. 

Alecia Caballero said she joined the march because she believes she shouldn’t have to feel unsafe on campus. 

“I should be able to walk from the Cathedral to upper campus by myself and feel safe doing so,” said Caballero, a sophomore history major. “I should be able to walk to class without being catcalled. And when I’ve tried to explain that to friends, they either didn’t understand or made a comment along the lines of “you dress really conservatively though.”

According to Pitt’s 2013 Jeanne Clery Act Statistics Report, between 2013 and 2014, there were 10 instances of rape reported on campus, and seven reports of forcible fondling — touching a person sexually against their will. This is up from the five reported instances of rape and one report of forcible fondling between 2012 and 2013. 

Anne Pride, a late National Organization for Women (NOW) activist, used the name “Take Back the Night,” during a speech in 1977 at an anti-violence rally in Pittsburgh, and so coined the term that eventually became the name for the worldwide anti-violence organization.

According to Take Back The Night’s website, anti-sexual violence rallies began when people started marching down the streets across Europe to discuss women’s safety. Later in San Francisco in 1973, people gathered to protest the serial murders of women and pornography. And then in 1975, when a female microbiologist was brutally murdered, people marched down the streets of Philadelphia in protest.

Thirty student leaders began the rally at the stage of the William Pitt Union Assembly Room, representing various student groups on campus that support the fight against sexual violence, including the Rainbow Alliance, Black Action Society and the Brazil Nuts Club, a Portuguese language club at Pitt. Club leaders told the crowd why they were participating in the march, which more than 100 people joined. 

Allie McCarthy, a junior and the president of the Rainbow Alliance, said Take Back the Night is especially important to the LGBTQIA community.

“Gender non-conforming individuals are often victims of sexual violence because people think they can be changed, we’re here to show that that is not okay,” McCarthy said.

The students marched down Forbes Avenue, where police waited to escort the students through South Oakland. They proceeded down Bouquet Street, across Bates Street, up Atwood Street and finally across Fifth Avenue, where they then entered Tower’s lobby. Many passers-by stopped to observe the march and listen to the group’s chanted demands.

After the march, the group gathered outside the Union and Brackenridge Hall to shout the purpose of the march: “What do we want? To end rape. When do we want it? Now,” they shouted.

CWO President Eleanora Kaloyeropoulou, a junior Africana studies and history major, and Sydney Garlick, CWO’s business manager, who are both certified peer counselors with SHARE, gave a bystander intervention seminar after the march.They spoke about being an active bystander and intervening in situations that need attention, such as witnessing sexual violence.

Kerrie Kauer, a visiting scholar and lecturer in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies department, said the march is about the idea that campus should always be a safe place for students.

“The idea is that students should feel safe and free from violence and harassment on their college campuses, including sexual violence, domestic violence, rape, intimate partner abuse, etc.,” Kauer said.

Sherdina Harper, CWO’s faculty advisor, watched the march from her car and cheered on her organizations event.

“Take Back the Night is needed to bring awareness to sexual abuse of both men and women at Pitt,” Harper said.

Kaloyeropoulou said the campus is working to create an initiative to combat sexual assault. 

“Most students want to help but don’t know how, and tonight we were able to discuss ideas on how to intervene and then put it into practice by talking about real life situations,” she said.