Late Friday evening on April 27, chants and voices could be heard traveling across campus during the annual “Take Back the Night” event hosted by the University of Illinois Springfield Women’s Center. “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!” The crowd chanted in rhyme as they marched around the UIS campus. Several march-participants had matching T-shirts advertising the UIS Women’s Center that read, “Stop blaming the victim.”
The group met briefly near the UIS pond before walking across campus—gaining in numbers as more people joined. The chants grew louder as the group walked their way through the university, stopping only once to link up with the protesters that had gathered similarly at Lincoln Land Community College. The group eventually met outside the Student Union Building (SLB) to hear stories and poems from sexual assault survivors and anti-violence advocates.
“It was just really powerful; hearing people speak out. Even if people are uncomfortable or don’t want to talk about it—it doesn’t get better unless we talk about it.” One participant stated after the speeches had concluded. After the speaking portion, participants were invited to hold a small candlelight vigil at the colonnade, while individuals continued to speak on topics related to sexual assault awareness.
Sexual assault awareness is very important, especially on college campuses. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an estimated 95% of campus rapes in the United States go unreported. Furthermore, according to the United States Department of Justice, it is estimated that around one in four female undergraduates will be the victim of some form of sexual assault prior to graduating college.
If you, a friend, or a family member have been the victim of sexual assault, harassment, or stalking, the UIS Women’s Center possesses resources both in-person and online that can help. Visit UIS.edu/womenscenter for more details.