The crucial link between illiteracy and segregation in San Antonio
September 15, 2016
Bringing Down Syndrome awareness from Texas to Nigeria
April 24, 2016
Canary Islanders Salute Descendants' Role in San Antonio's Settlement
October 6, 2016
Using music and poetry to "Take Back the Night"
April 30, 2016
Over a dozen local organisations gathered together to support victims of sexual violence at this year's annual "Take Back the Night", hosted by San Antonio's Rape Crisis Center on 28 April, 2016.
This year was all about college students. Take Back the Night was held at UTSA main campus and attracted a large student attendance. Student clubs like Black Lives Matter, Intersections, and the Women's Studies Institute, set up tables at the event.
According to Jennifer Tristan, the Director of Education and Training at the Rape Crisis Center, this year "Take Back the Night" needed to focus on the college community where sexual assault is prevalent.
That isn't to say that the center doesn't already have its hands full. The Rape Crisis Center not only serves people in San Antonio, it works with the Texas Association of Sexual Assault and crisis centers all across the state, to collect data on the prevalence of sexual violence.
"We know that in Texas, according to a study that just came out last year, 2 in 5 women and 1 in 5 men have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime," Tristan said. "So, understanding that prevalence, understanding what that means with just the people around you... people are affected by this constantly."
"Take Back the Night" featured performances by El Tallercito de Son, Latin Dance Society, Sigma Lambda Alpha and others. However, the student voices stole the night.
Tabitha Austin, President and Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter, UTSA, gave an emotional testimony about her experience with sexual assault. She explained why it is important for voices like hers to be public.
"I think women, and especially queer women of colour are drastically underrepresented, especially in the media... we aren't given the care that we need in order to thrive and be successful," Austin said. "It was important for me to speak out, especially as a black woman because, our voices are too often silenced."
The vocal certainty of many students at the event was exactly what Jennifer Tristan was looking for when the Rape Crisis Center decided to bring their cause to UTSA.
"This year we've selected the UTSA campus to really bring in the college student community and combine that with the San Antonio community," Tristan said. "[That way] the Rape Crisis Center itself, is more accessible to people who need our services."
Ashley Bird, Vice-President of Black Lives Matter UTSA, shared her story while encouraging her peers to be a voice for awareness.
"It's important for me to be here because I'm the daughter and granddaughter of men and women who have been victims of sexual violence and abuse; and I'm also a survivor of that as well," Bird shared. "Even if you're not a survivor of sexual violence... it's important that you speak out on behalf of those who have endured it and are still enduring it."
Keynote Speaker, Dr. Kim Kline, shared her personal story about discussing sexual assault with her daughter. She stressed the importance of bringing uncomfortable and important conversations to the forefront of our awareness.
"I have been teaching [my daughter] since she was little, that empowerment meant being aware of, and making others aware of, your ability to make choices... Isn't that why we are all here? The idea of self-determination, I've heard the word autonomy mentioned, agency, empowerment, turning on all of the lights."
According to Dr. Kline, we as a society "turned on the first light" in 1975, Philadelphia, where the first "Take Back the Night" took place.
"Back then... [Take Back the Night] really was about sexual assault that took place by strangers, under the cover of darkness," Dr. Kline said. "And we said no more, we're not doing that, we're not going to accept that, we're going to speak up and take back the night."
Jennifer Tristan gave some insight into tackling the conversation around sexual assault.
"One way to bring light to the issue is to learn about it. Educate yourself on what the topic is. What is sexual assault? What is rape? Challenging stereotypes and myths about what rape looks like; having conversations about consent; finding spaces to talk about this and let people know that this is an issues that we are not afraid of."