Sexual violence survivors, supporters march for Take Back the Night rally

Demonstrators and survivors of sexual violence marched through the Ped Mall and shared their stories on the Pentacrest for the Women’s Resource and Action Center’s Take Back the Night rally on Tuesday.


Grace Smith

Rally organizers lead the 2022 Take Back the Night march organized by the Women’s Resource and Action Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.

Arabia Parkey, News Reporter

Editor’s note: this report includes mentions of sexual violence

Around 200 demonstrators gathered for the Take Back the Night march in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence on Tuesday. Together, they marched through downtown Iowa City to the Pentacrest.

The rally, organized by the University of Iowa Women’s Resource and Action Center, or WRAC, returned to campus for the first time since 2019 after halting because of COVID-19.

Advocates and rally participants met on the Pentacrest for opening remarks from representatives from WRAC.

The Johnson County Sexual Assault Response Team, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, and the Domestic Violence Intervention Program tabled at the event, providing resources and support for survivors of sexual violence.

Maddy Russell, a Johnson County Sexual Assault Response sexual assault nurse examiner, said events like Take Back the Night are important to spread awareness of the resources available for survivors.

“I think the importance of events like this is because not everybody knows about services like this,” Russell said. “It’s hard to know what you’re supposed to do when something happens to you.”

Laurie Haag, WRAC program developer, said the signs at the event were designed by students as part of workshops at the center.

Advocates, students, and survivors held signs that read “Justice for Survivors,” “No Means No,” and more, through the Ped Mall as chants echoed through the streets.

“Two, four, six, eight. No more violence, no more rape,” rally participants shouted.

Haag shared the most recent UI sexual assault report statistics for the 2015-19 period: 1,860 reports, with only 178 of those reports investigated by the university, and 87 determined to be a code of student life violation.

UI third-year student Lauren Phillips said she participated in her first Take Back the Night rally on Tuesday to support anyone who has been impacted by sexual violence.

“Every woman knows another woman who has been through something if you haven’t yourself,” Phillips said. “I think it’s really important to support each other and also just support the movement.”

After the march, participants met again at the Pentacrest for a brief discussion on the history of Take Back the Night and an open mic opportunity for survivors to share their stories.

Maria Kayser, UI fourth-year student and WRAC outreach and programming assistant, told The Daily Iowan in a previous article that Take Back the Night demonstrations happen globally each year and date back to the ‘70s at the UI.

Martha Pierce, WRAC assistant director and violence prevention program coordinator, said she values the centering of survivors’ struggles and resilience most about Take Back the Night.

She said she hopes that participants use the energy from the rally to create safer and more welcoming communities for everyone.

“The more that we hear that side of things and that experience, I think the better we all understand and the ways in which our systems still need improvement and have room to change,” Pierce said.