“We have the power! We have the right! We are here to Take Back the Night!” This is just one of the chants that was voiced last Thursday evening during the annual “Take Back the Night” event at the University of Rhode Island.

URI’s Peer Educators began the event with Providence College graduate Sarah Allen who spoke on her experiences and ideals on sexual assault. Participants were then invited to meet on the URI Quad to march around campus. The night concluded with a candlelight vigil for those who have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.

Providence College graduate Sarah Allen speaks about sexual violence - Credit: Rachel Simon
Providence College graduate Sarah Allen speaks about sexual violence – Credit: Rachel Simon

Allen, a speaker for the Bureau for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), spoke about rape culture today and how the media portrays women. She became involved with RAINN after finding out over 20 of her friends had suffered from sexual assault and after having her own experiences. Allen explained that she was in a two-year abusive relationship in high school, and after ending things she tried to “face her experiences on her own.”

Eventually Allen met a guy who was able to guide her back to a better state of mind. “He became my best friend, until one night out he raped me.” Allen explained how truly shocked she was that the person whom she trusted had turned on her. This was a turning point in Allen’s life and she decided to start talking about sexual assault with other people.

“In order to talk about sexualization we must be able to understand it,” Allen said. “The media and all it’s other art forms have always seemed to bombard us on how we should see ourselves.”

Allen continued to explain this causes people to limit themselves solely to their sexuality. Allen explained how because of how available porn is to children, at young ages these kids are beginning to formulate ideas about the opposite sex that ultimately degrade each other.

“You don’t want an 8-year-old to be sexualized,” she said. “You want them to be an 8-year-old.”

Support is shown for students marching to "Take Back the Night" - Credit: Rachel Simon
Support is shown for students marching to “Take Back the Night” – Credit: Rachel Simon

Allen’s talk concluded with a few questions from the audience. One student asked, “How big of a role does terminology play in sexual assaults?” Allen responded in saying that terminology is very important. She explained that the word “victim” is not how women who have experienced rape should define themselves. She added that when helping someone who has experienced some form of sexual assault, you should not impose your impressions on them, you should support them.

A few of the peer educators lead the march that followed the speech with a banner that displayed “Take Back the Night” on it. Crowds of activists followed behind chanting phrases such as, “Shatter the silence! Stop the violence!” and “Claim our bodies, claim our right, take a stand, take back the night!”