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Community stands united against sex crimes

Marchers amassed on Maxson Plaza to take a stand against sexual violence toward women.

Students carry candles during the Take Back the Night rally at Maxson Plaza last Thursday.

Mike Yee

Students carry candles during the Take Back the Night rally at Maxson Plaza last Thursday.

Amber Watt

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Dozens of women and men gathered at Maxson Plaza behind Brotman Hall at Cal State Long Beach on Thursday evening for the Take Back the Night rally against sexual violence.

Organized by the Feminist Organization Reclaiming Consciousness and Equality, or F.O.R.C.E., Take Back the Night served as the finale to a series of events throughout April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Speeches began at 7 p.m. Participants were encouraged to sign a poster pledging to help end sexual violence. Take Back the Night speakers focused on the empowerment of women to prevent such abuse.

Tiombe Preston, program director for the California Black Women’s Health Project, spoke about the right of women to be able to walk freely at night and not be confined in their homes.

She said that above everything else, the most important idea is “the basic right to be safe in our own body,” and that words like “date rape” tend to minimize sexual attacks because someone the victim trusted committed the act.

“How can a phenomenon such as interpersonal violence permeate our lives every day?” asked Cpl. Ami Rzasa of the University Police. Rzasa told the crowd about the Rape Aggression Defense program offered by University Police, which provides instruction on resisting would-be attackers.

Rzasa also stated that a main part of the solution to ending sexual violence is to “build an environment where mutual respect is expected.”

Leilani Adams, a 49-year-old resident of Riverside, said that “people kind of see it as, ‘Oh, I know there’s a problem.’ But they don’t like to face it. It’s an abstract problem.”

Adams added that the night was “a reminder to people to really think about how their actions can harm another person… what someone doesn’t think is harmful can really affect another person’s attitude on life.”

Sarah Noone, the Associated Students, Inc. secretary of women’s affairs, spoke about the media as well as women’s roles in what she called a male-dominated society.

“What I see is that institutions are designed to protect institutions … they promote the masculinization of wealth and povertization of women,” Noone said.

Jeff Klaus, director of Student Life and Development, focused on the role of men in changing the attitude about sexual violence in today’s culture. Klaus also referred with disapproval to the annual “Cherry Bust” party, held at the beginning of each school year by the CSULB chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

“Men have to come to the table and be a part of this,” Klaus said. “It’s a cycle, and we have to break that cycle … through awareness and action.”

Rally participant Ashleigh Klein, 26, is the director of education and outreach with the Sexual Assault Crisis Agency (SACA) at CSULB.

Klein said that Take Back the Night “really is about taking back space. We’re told on campus not to walk alone, get an escort … this is a way to say, ‘You know what? Screw that … I’m not going to be afraid.'”

The march began at 8 p.m. at Maxson Plaza and went in front of the University Student Union, through both the Parkside Commons and Residence Commons dormitories and finally to the Puvungna grounds. During the march participants yelled the chants: “Real men don’t rape,” “men and women unite, take back the night,” and “no more rape, no more violence. No more victims, no more silence.”

After the march, participants were able to have a unique experience at the Native American sacred site Puvungna, where the speakout portion of the evening was held.

Mariana Velazquez, a sophomore human development major and F.O.R.C.E. member, commented on the importance of men and women working together in the fight against sexual violence.

“A lot of people think feminism is pro-women, but it’s actually pro-human,” Velazquez said.

Chants and prayers to the “creator” were conducted over a fire. The prayer expressed gratefulness and a hope for a better world for future children, and songs were sung to help heal and bring about ancestors to help survivors in their journey with healing.

“[Participants of the speakout] feel they’re in a space where they can express their feelings and know they have support,” Velazquez said.

“It’s active and it’s saying we’re not going to let sexual violence confine us,” Klein said about the rally. “It’s a powerful statement because we’re saying this happens, but it doesn’t have to.”

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