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UNLV logo (photo courtesy of unlv.edu)
UNLV logo (photo courtesy of unlv.edu)

UNLV Students Rally Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

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One in four women will experience domestic violence at least once in their lifetime, stats show. Most of those women are between 18 and 25 year old. This violence cycle is one that UNLV students are trying to break.

The UNLV and its surrounding communities spoke out against domestic violence and sexual assault at the 21st Annual Take Back the Night Rally on Oct. 23.

Traditionally, Take Back the Night rallies are women-invite only, but UNLV’s version was open to all.

“Violence transcends all demographics,” said Carmella Gadsen, co-chair of this year’s rally. “We are not leaving anyone out because we can’t afford to.”

This message appeared to have been well received since at least one-fourth of the attendees were male.

After a two-hour resource fair, informing attendees of the services available to them to report and stop interpersonal violence, the event kicked off with the “Take Back the Rights” song, a rap written and performed by student Trey Norman. A few speeches followed his rap, culminating in a balloon release.

Purple and teal balloons filled the air as the first keynote speaker, Goante, took the stage.

Goante’s speech focused on the responsibility of men to be proactive instead of reactive in the fight against interpersonal violence. His spoken word pieces argued for social change and spoke to the social responsibility everyone has to end this abuse.

“Rape culture is silence,” Goante said. “It is being able to see the future and not doing anything about it.”

The Take Back the Night Rally aims to end that silence. It gives victims a place to feel supported and share their experiences.

“There’s a lot of power in people who have survived horrific things and are making the statement that ‘I am not afraid,’” Goante continued. “I am not going to be oppressed because you want me to be afraid. I know too many victims, which means I know too many perpetrators.

Following Goante’s spoken word, the second keynote speaker, Elena Espinoza, took the stage. She performed an emotion-filled speech about her personal struggles with violence and what it means to be a woman.

“Love and violence have no place with each other,” she said.

Attendees clapped and cheered during both speakers’ performances, and with that high energy, they readied themselves to march around UNLV.

With signs in hand, the attendees marched from the amphitheater toward the sciences area, over to the library, and then back to the amphitheater, chanting phrases like “yes means yes, no means no, however we dress, wherever we go.”

Curious students in the university’s buildings exited to see where the joyful noise was coming from.

Marchers returned to the amphitheater to find candles. About 100 people sat in the candlelight for one of the most emotionally charged portions of the rally, “the speak out,” which allowed attendees to share their experience with violence and sexual assault.

“It was very raw, it was very personal and I think for many who attended, it can be very life-changing,” said Jose Santillana, UNLV professor and rally attendee.

A healing ceremony and guided meditation ended the rally, aiming to allow attendees to leave in a calm and peaceful state of mind.

“We want to accomplish this culture change,” Carmella Gadsen said. “People going out and starting these conversations with people they care about.”

“We’re taking away the taboo of being a victim,” Gadsen said. “This is our fight to take on.”

There are many resources available to UNLV students on campus who experience interpersonal violence. Campus Advocacy and Resource Empowerment (CARE) runs a hotline that is open and anonymous for all students. Students who are victims of interpersonal violence can call the Department of Police Services to report the crime, file a no-conduct order at the Office of Student Conduct, and visit the Title IX office to learn about student rights.

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