On Thursday, Oct. 23 the Women’s Studies Department hosted their annual Take Back the Night event to bring awareness to violence against women.

Take Back the Night is a symbolic way for women and women’s rights supporters to claim the night as a safe space for women. UTSA held its first Take Back the Night event in 2009, but it has been an annual event held in the U.S. since the late 1970s.

Keely Moore, who is also a founding member of the UTSA student organization Feminist@s Unite, participated in Take Back the Night. “The event provides an opportunity for survivors and victims of gendered violence to commune, share our pain publicly, heal collectively and strategize to create a less violent world,” she said.

In 2014, some people might find it hard to believe that women’s rights are still an issue. Women have long had the right to vote and are becoming increasingly visible in the workplace.

However, women still face obstacles because of their gender, and events like Take Back the Night bring awareness to this reality.

Take a typical night out for any college student. A male student will need to remember to bring his phone, wallet, keys; he’ll need to watch out for his friends, make sure he doesn’t drive drunk and ultimately ensure he ends up in a safe place.

A female student will need to keep all of these things in mind in addition to looking out for her drink (Rophynal usage is most commonly used at college parties and at clubs according to the U.S. Department of Justice). She might also need to remember to have something like pepper spray in her possession, while also making sure she doesn’t get separated from her friends because being alone puts her in a vulnerable position for something as traumatic as sexual assault.

The Department of Justice estimates that one in five women will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime.

Sure, any woman will admit that she knows it is dangerous to walk home alone, but it cannot be said often enough to no women is ever, in any way, “asking for it.”

Feminists call this tendency to blame women for their own assaults “rape culture,” and, even if you’re not a feminist, it isn’t hard to see how this mentality is unfair. Rape culture claims that victims are at fault for their own attacks and perpetuates the idea that attackers aren’t responsible for their actions.

It is this victim-blaming mentality that, until changed, prevents true equality for women. Until a woman feels as safe walking home as her male counterpart, equality has not been achieved. Until a woman can walk down the street without being catcalled, she is not being shown respect. Until women don’t disproportionately face domestic abuse, they are not safe and until women earn the same salary as their male counterparts for the same job, the women’s rights movement is still needed.

What can we do to change this?

Women will need allies in this movement. They will need the support of other women who share their struggles, they will need open-mindedness from their male counterparts and they will need those in positions of power to provide equal opportunities.

It is important to remember that the need to empower women isn’t a call to remove men from positions of power but simply a call to be treated as equals alongside them.

Talking about assault can be difficult for victims, but students are entitled to university help. UTSA’s Title IX policy prohibits sexual violence, which includes sexual harassment.

Victims of sexual violence or harassment are encouraged to contact the UTSA Police Department where they will have the option to remain anonymous. They may also contact UTSA’s Title IX Coordinator Leonard Flaum at leonard.flaum@utsa.edu.

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