PSU takes back the night

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in protest of sexual violence, over 300 people came out for Bike Back the Night/Take Back the Night on April 24.

The event took place in Smith Memorial Student Union, Parkway North, and was hosted by Portland State’s Women’s Resource Center and the Portland Women’s Crisis Line.

Kari Anne McDonald, events and publicity coordinator for the WRC spoke about some of the goals for the night. “We hope to raise awareness on campus and in the larger community, and start a dialogue about creating a world where sexual violence doesn’t exist.”

BBTN/TBTN is one of the events put on at PSU this April as part of SAAM. However, TBTN rallies have been happening for over 30 years, to support survivors and raise awareness.

PSU has held its own TBTN event annually the last 12 years and has partnered with the Portland Women’s Crisis Line to include the BBTN portion of the event for the last four. This year’s event theme was Transcending Rape Culture: Rewriting the Narrative.

The function kicked off with a resource fair and live entertainment, giving attendees a chance to talk to and learn from representatives of the many organizations tabling at the event. These included the Sexual Assault Resource Center, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, the PSU Queer Resource Center, the Feminist Community Center, In Other Words, the South Asian Women’s Empowerment and Resource Alliance, the WRC’S Reproductive Justice Action Team, Victims Rights Laws, the Associated Students of PSU, Bradley Angle, and the Center for Student Health and Counseling.

Food and drinks were available for guests to munch on as they wandered through the fair, and live entertainment was provided by the Little Music Collective. Attendees were also encouraged to participate in a clothesline project that allowed them to write about their personal experiences or supportive messages on paper T-shirts. The messages were then hung up throughout the room.

After giving guests approximately 45 minutes to tour the event and enjoy the fair, the TBTN march began. Making a loop around campus, marchers held signs or wore clothing bearing messages protesting rape culture and sexual violence. Literature, including several motivating chants, was distributed to marchers who shouted them with passion throughout the walk.

“We’ve really been working hard getting the word out about BBTN,” said Kirsten Adkerson, a crisis line specialist for the Portland Women’s Crisis Line. “We’ve talked to people at bike stores, bike repair shops, as well as going around neighborhoods.

“I think it’s really important that survivors feel supported in telling their stories and know that their communities are rallying behind them. That’s why these kinds of events are so great.”

Regrouping in the South Park Blocks, the marchers then joined forces with the BBTN riders who had begun their march in Colonel Summers Park earlier that evening. As it began to rain, everyone moved back inside to hear Monika Weitzel, a direct service advocate specializing in working with survivors experiencing homelessness for the Portland Women’s Crisis Line, speak about how we can begin to transcend rape culture.

“I want us to celebrate this safe place, but remember that rape culture affects our entire community,” Weitzel said. “The simplest thing you can do to transcend rape culture is to believe and support survivors.”

The next plan for the event was to move to the Walk of Heroines next to the Stott Recreational Field for a candlelight vigil and performance from the Aurora Chorus, but the rain left event coordinators with no choice but to cancel the vigil and continue the event indoors.

The Aurora Chorus, a non-profit women’s community chorus whose mission, as stated on their website, is “to inspire and reflect the universal yearning for peace by giving voice to women” squeezed into the room to perform two songs.

To end the night, representatives of the WRC led a collective Moment of Noise, reminding the crowd that everyone has a voice. An optional Survivor Speak Out was held after the main event, giving survivors a safe space to share their stories and experiences. Advocates were also on hand to speak with participants.

“I just really believe that everybody deserves to feel safe,” said Samantha Gardner, a freshman at PSU majoring in social work. “Nobody should have to be scared walking around campus.”