WRAC to hold Take Back the Night rally to support survivors of sexual violence

The Take Back the Night rally organized by the Women’s Resource and Action Center is returning to Iowa City April 26, for the first time since 2019.


Joseph Cress

Community members participate in a march for Take Back the Night on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. Take Back the Night was a sexual assault awareness event.

Arabia Parkey, News Reporter

Editor’s note: This report contains mentions of sexual violence.

Survivors of sexual violence and their advocates will march through the Pedestrian Mall next Tuesday in the Take Back the Night rally hosted by the University of Iowa Women’s Resource and Action Center.

The event will make a return to Iowa City for the first time since 2019, after a hiatus because of COVID-19.

Take Back the Night is a global movement with protests in the U.S. dating back to the ‘70s when violent incidents against women in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles gained media attention.

Laurie Haag, program developer at the UI’s Women’s Resource and Action Center, or WRAC, said the Take Back the Night rallies were created as educational and activist events to bring attention to the prevalence of sexual violence.

“The title of Take Back the Night is a reference to the fact that women and other people who might be victimized in some way have traditionally not felt safe at night on the streets in our communities,” Haag said.

Haag said that, in this movement, visions of those affected by sexual violence have expanded to acknowledge that men and people of other genders, not just women, also often experience sexual violence.

People in the LGBTQ+ community and people of color disproportionately experience cases of sexual assault, she said.

According to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, 19 percent of Black women and 34 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women are likely to be raped in their lifetimes. This compares to almost 18 percent of white women.

Maria Kayser, UI fourth-year student and outreach and programming assistant at WRAC, said the UI has hosted Take Back the Night rallies since the ‘70s.

Kayser said the goals of WRAC’s Take Back the Night event have shifted, as awareness of sexual violence has increased, especially with recent incidents on campus.

“So, obviously, the goal is to bring awareness to the issue, but I think more so it’s translating to a demand for accountability — a demand for action,” Kayser said.

This year’s rally will begin at the Pentacrest with a brief discussion on sexual violence, followed by a march through downtown Iowa City and the Ped Mall.

Advocates, volunteers, and various sexual violence resources will be available throughout the event, because of the topics that will be discussed, Kayser said.

Haag said the theme of this year’s rally is “Shattering the Silence,” giving those affected by sexual violence a chance to speak out about their experiences.

“So, what we find is that traditionally, the voices of the survivors don’t get heard,” Haag said. “They’re afraid to talk about it. They’re told not to talk about it. And this is a place where they can talk about it.”

Alexandra Fenton, a UI fourth-year student and WRAC peer educator, said after the march there will be time allotted for those affected by sexual violence to share their thoughts and experiences.

“What’s cool about that is we make sure that everyone that wants to speak, speaks,” Fenton said. “And so, the event won’t end until everyone’s voice is heard.”