Take Back the Night
“Tonight we use our voices. Tonight we speak out. We let them know that we will not stay silent. So, tonight we take back the night!” With that, Rebecca Weiland began Santa Monica's first “Take Back the Night” march, from the Corsair Field to Pearl Street and back, on the evening of Monday, April 24 at Santa Monica College's Corsair Field.
About a dozen students, both women, and men gathered for the event. According to the website of the non-profit organization Take Back the Night, the marches are part of a movement that goes back to the 1960s in Europe as a way to protest sexual violence and the inability to feel safe while walking out at night.
After the march, the group returned to the school's Corsair Field and went up to the bleachers, where several people shared their stories of harassment and rape. Weiland also gave a short lecture, educating those present on what consent means: “There’s a lot of victim-blaming from people who are not survivors, they can’t put themselves in that position and there’s a belief that if I don’t do those things, that if I don’t make those choices, then I’ll never be a victim. That says to the victim, ‘You made the wrong choices, you brought this on yourself, you deserve it.'”
Weiland wants people to speak out when they see men engaging in sexual harassment or abuse and to become educated on explicit consent. In addition, she wants people to stop “slut-shaming” and realize that just because someone is wearing revealing clothing doesn't mean that they are ‘asking for it.'
California’s “Yes Means Yes” consent law that passed in 2014 states that consent must be given before having sex, and anything less than affirmative consent is rape. The new bill makes it so that if a person is incapacitated by any means, whether because they are drunk or asleep, they are unable to give consent.
California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), both of whom co-wrote the affirmative consent bill, wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Post that, “While ‘no means no’ has become a well-known slogan, it places the burden on victims, making it their responsibility to show resistance.”
A representative from the college's Health and Wellness Center was there to show support to the survivors who showed up to the event. In addition to having counselors available to speak to during normal business hours, the Wellness Center also has a 24/7 phone line where people can call in cases of emergency or if they feel they need to talk to someone.
Those who participated in the event felt it went well. “I think it went really well, I was really proud of the girls who got up and shared their stories," said McKenna Palmer, the Social Justice Chair of the SMC Cheer Club. "As young women, we don’t get the chance or opportunity to tell our stories very often as openly or as candidly, so I think it was great just to have that safe space.”