Speakers at Wednesday night’s Take Back the Night event stressed that all people are susceptible to sexual assault and domestic violence.
The annual event, sponsored by the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, is a rally against sexual violence. More than 60 students and area residents assembled in Kogan Plaza to read literature, hear speakers and march to bring awareness to their cause.
Speakers included representatives from the GW Women’s Studies Department, Men Can Stop Rape, My Sister’s Place and the D.C. Rape Crisis Center and Washington Free Collaboration.
“Take Back the Night is not just a day out of the year,” said Melisa Pardes, a GW alumna and survivor of sexual abuse. “It is every day. It is the constant struggle against violence.”
A clothesline hung behind the podium was draped with T-shirts bearing messages calling for an end to violence. Nearby posters read, “I refuse to be afraid” and “Stop the fury.”
“Basically, Take Back the Night is a program that tries to inspire change and bring about awareness,” said Stephanie Pimental, finance chair of the FMLA.
Cynthia Deitch, acting director of the GW Women’s Studies Department, spoke about the legacy of Nicole Paul, a GW student who was brutally murdered following sexual assault in 1994.
“It is important to tell her story to help keep her spirit alive,” Deitch said.
Speakers said anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, and that the majority of victims know their attackers.
Ken Noyes, deputy director of the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, spoke about the plight of those suffering from abuse within same-sex relationships. He cited community prejudice and the necessity for a victim to expose his sexuality to family and friends. Same-sex abuse is less often reported than abuse occurring in a heterosexual relationship, he said.
“Domestic violence in lesbian/gay/transgender/bisexual communities is as prevalent as within the heterosexual communities,” he said.
Noyes also discussed a solution to domestic violence.
“Domestic violence will continue to exist as long as society teaches its children that violence is acceptable in any form,” he said.
Sapana Donde, a representative from Asian Women’s Self-Help Association and a GW graduate student, addressed difficulties facing South Asian immigrants who suffer from domestic abuse.
“Anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a perpetrator,” she said.
Following the speeches, some survivors and other attendees told personal stories at an open microphone event. Participants then marched around campus and held a candlelight vigil in Kogan Plaza.