By Tania Chakraborti
Over 30 students marched from the Students’ Union to Market Square and back again on Saturday evening to protest against sexual violence on student campuses.
The event, publicised as ‘Reclaim the Night’, was organised by It’s Not Ok at Durham Campaign to raise awareness of sexual violence and misconduct at university.
The march began at around 8:15pm from the Students’ Union, with students chanting “My body! My Choice!” and “What do we want? Safe streets! When do we want them? Now!”
In Market Square, as the rain poured down, speeches were made on behalf of the event organisers, Charlotte Foakes and Chelsea Lowdon, as well as others keen to make a stand.
Protesters were met with abusive comments from bystanders as they made their way to Market Square, as seen in this previously reported video, which can be accessed here. Such abuse included one bystander shouted “f**k off” amongst other offensive comments.
When asked by Palatinate why they were holding the march, Ms Foakes stated that sexual assault on campus is “not addressed properly by the University, it’s not talked about in wider society […] behaviour that we all kind of put up with, like groping in clubs isn’t actually okay and is a form of sexual assault and it’s something that happens so regularly but is never ever ever talked about.”
Above: protestors carrying their placards
The second year student and Co-Chair of It’s Not Ok continued; “It is something that isn’t really supported well enough by the DSU … but [this is] the only sort of campaign or society that directly tackles sexual violence.
“People don’t know how to make a change which is why this is something we want to do, to be the leaders of that on campus and challenge the University to get better because they are improving and we acknowledge that but it’s not really enough. The idea with the protest is it’s really radical and something that will gain quite a bit of attention just to … make the University take notice and make other people take notice.
“It’s called ‘Reclaim the Night’ because just because it’s dark outside doesn’t mean we can’t go out … women wearing short skirts doesn’t mean anything bad should happen.”
The protesters were carrying placards showing slogans such as “Take Back the Night”, “Rape pre dates the Mini Skirt”, “Stop Rape Culture”, “Harassment is not a Compliment” amongst others.
A protester Greta Kubitzek told Palatinate that she was taking part in the march because she “thought it was just a very important cause because obviously Durham has had quite a bit of a history of sexual violence and it’s very important that we stand up for ourselves.”
Lorena Leon stated she was there because of “the implicit history at the University of toxic masculinity and the sort of drinking culture that allows men to harass women or any of us.”
On their Facebook page, the campaign group stated:
“Last night showed us why Reclaim the Night and people working together to end both abuse on campus and victim blaming, is so important.
“Even as we marched through Durham, we had abuse shouted at us by various groups. We felt unsafe on our streets; the exact thing we were marching against. That’s why we thought it was important to finish our march, how we had planned, and refuse to be silenced.
“We will continue to demand safer streets, an end to victim blaming and fight to ensure we have a safe campus and city for both students and local residents. And together, we will not be silenced.
“If you’ve been affected by this please consider contacting Nightline, your College Welfare officer and College support team. Alternatively, please message the page for more support.”
It’s Not Ok week hosted by the campaign group has included a film screening, discussion groups, an open mike, a quiz to raise awareness for the cause.
Photographs and video footage: Tania Chakraborti