Reclaim the NightPosted: 29 January 2013
Great to see so many people at an energetic Reclaim the Night last night. There were three fabulous speakers and a performance poet, with several hundred of us hanging on every word in a candlelit Kings College chapel.
I wrote a statement for The Cambridge Student in advance of the demo (to be quoted as ‘a member of FAC’ not on behalf of the group, as discussed in the meeting last week), so I thought I’d share it with you, as it sums up quite nicely what Reclaim the Night is about for me:
I’m thrilled that the CUSU Women’s Campaign are continuing the hugely important tradition of Reclaim the Night marches. This march is a rare space for the voices of women who have been silenced by sexual violence to be heard. Marching together in a group of women also means that, for once, we can respond to the street harassment that most women experience frequently. For once, we can actually respond to harassers without fear of escalation of violence, as we’re surrounded by other women who are in solidarity with us. And we can shout about our truth – that rape is common, and victims are silenced.
Reclaim the Night is one way of raising awareness of sexual violence, and telling the one in four women who experience rape or serious sexual assault during their lifetime that we stand in solidarity with them. It’s difficult to do activism around sexual violence because it usually goes on behind closed doors – the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by someone who the victim knows. Reclaim the Night makes this public, for one night a year.
While the increased public and media visibility of sexual violence with high profile cases such as the Delhi gang rape case and the Jimmy Savile case, these examples are only the tip of the iceberg as regards the prevalence of sexual violence. Most women and girls who are raped or sexually assaulted will not report to the police – and with good reason – and many will tell no-one at all. This is because we live in a society where women are blamed when we are raped. The revelations in the Jimmy Savile case that victims coming forward were often not believed demonstrates how much women are punished for being the victims of sexual violence. It is never a woman’s fault if she is raped or sexually assaulted. Reclaim the Night is a chance for women to come together and shout this, loudly, publicly, in a way that we can only do when we have the solidarity of a group of us together.
Feminists have the courage to speak the truth about sexual violence in our society – that it’s everywhere, and that it is condoned and covered up by most institutions. Many people don’t want to see this truth or think about it because it’s too shocking and painful. The resurgence of feminism in the UK in recent years is a sign that some people are willing to see this, and have the courage to talk about it. But we have a long way to go.