I would like to take a moment to pause. Take a moment to breathe. As we have entered the month of May, I have been reflecting on the previous month, April. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The WRC and PWCL sponsored Take Back the Night/Bike Back the Night. It was our final event for the month. At the event, we shared a safe space in Parkway North in Smith Memorial Student Union. We came together in solidarity to march and speak out against sexual violence and military sexual trauma. As we chanted and marched down the streets of downtown Portland having our voice heard, our pictures taken, and people joining us, this overwhelming feeling of solidarity came over me, with a strong after thought—why and how long would we need to hold events like these?
Take Back the Night is an annual march and event, as a way to take a stand against sexual violence and speak out against such crimes. The first TBTN event occurred in 1975 in Philadelphia. Community members came together after Susan Alexander Speeth, a young microbiologist was murdered by a stranger only a block away from her home. She was walking home alone. 38 years later, people of all walks of life are still focusing their attention, effort, and lives to eliminate sexual violence.
Sometimes we take one step forward and two steps back. Unfortunately, quite a few sexual assault cases have made national news showing empathy for the perpetrators. This is rape culture. Take the Steubenville verdict; the perpetrators never apologized for raping a girl but only for getting caught. Rape culture is victim-blaming, slut shaming, and condoning the idea that sexual assault is a “women’s issue.”
Another large step forward, The Violence Against Women Act that recently passed again, now includes Native Americans, and LGBT survivors. VAWA also keeps judges from being able to rule in rape cases that the victim was allegedly “asking for it.” Rape culture seeps into news broadcastings, TV sitcoms, politics, college campuses, workspaces, etc. Needing a law to prevent legal victim blaming is rape culture. We need to keep a steady progression against rape culture, against sexual assault, against rape. Is it a choice of picking battles or is it a matter of always interrupting oppression?
By: Gretchen D. Hawker