reclaim the night
Image: Katie Tarrant / The Boar

Rape culture mocked following Reclaim the Night protest

Writings in chalk made by Reclaim the Night protestors were altered from “reclaim Warwick from rape culture” to “reclaim Warwick from babe culture” on Monday night. The identity of the person(s) who altered the phrasing is unknown both to The Boar and to the organisers.

The Reclaim the Night march took place on Monday evening in protest against rape culture and victim blaming amongst other causes. These included: freedom from sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism; improvement for mental health facilities at the University, and calls to reform the University’s disciplinary system.

It was co-hosted by a variety of societies: Warwick Anti-Sexism Society, Warwick Anti-Racism Society, Warwick Enable, Warwick Sexpression, Warwick Pride, Warwick STAR, Warwick Labour and Warwick For Free Education.

The march began at the Piazza with opening speeches by officer from the Students’ Union (SU), including Education Officer Larissa Kennedy, who said: “Our struggles are collective, the way we are oppressed is collective and so we must stand collectively to reclaim the night.

“Collectively we stand and collectively we move now because for centuries, violence against women and trans people has been a concept enabled and normalised by patriarchy.”

It was followed by speeches from heads of societies such as Warwick STAR and Warwick Anti-Sexism Society. After the final speech, a member of the public, who was not a student, asked to speak in solidarity with the speakers.

He wanted to say that students should be fighting against what has been previously deemed acceptable in the past not just for themselves, but for future generations.

The march took protestors to University House and back to Curiositea, making stops outside Senate House and the Library so that protesters could write their slogans in chalk on the ground.

Sadly, this follows the pattern experienced at other SUs recently, and emphasises just how much campaigns for safer campuses which are free from such a toxic culture remain necessary

– Liam Jackson

These phrases included: “whatever we wear, yes means yes and no means no”, “my body my choice”, and “nobody for rapists”.

One of such slogans written outside of the Library, which was by Larissa, originally read “reclaim Warwick from rape culture”. An hour after the protest had concluded, the word “rape” was altered to “babe”.

Asked about the altered chalk phrase, SU president Liam Jackson said: “Sadly, this follows the pattern experienced at other SUs recently, and emphasises just how much campaigns for safer campuses which are free from such a toxic culture remain necessary.”

Prior to the protest, a list of demands were put together for action by the University. The first was to make a 10 year commitment to employing an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA).

Requests for the improvement of mental health services included promoting and improving resourcing for the University’s crisis support networks, as well as reducing the waiting time for support services.

With regards to disciplinary action, the SU campaigned for staff-wide training on dealing with disclosures and disciplinaries, and for the University to engage an independent consultant to advise on the best practice for disciplinary cases.

The march continued to Senate House and University House, which was suggested by Women’s Officer Emma Coleman as locations for protest in order to bring the issues to the attention of some of the most influential members of the University.

However, when the protest reached University House, SU President Liam Jackson was pulled aside by security, who were not informed of the protest, despite the SU having submitted risk assessments.

We reclaim the night every year because we still feel this campus isn’t as safe as it should be this year

– Larissa Kennedy

A protest under the name “Reclaim the Night” also took place in May last year, following the suspension of eleven members of the University involved in a group chat controversy.

The Boar asked Larissa Kennedy about changes or improvements the University has made since the last march, she said: “We reclaim the night every year because we still feel this campus isn’t as safe as it should be this year.

“People can see we’ve extended this reclaim the night to calling for a liberated university as well so that’s looking at other intersectional issues.”

She added: “In terms of what’s changed, I think we can see with the ISVA that in some way they are committing to having someone on this campus who deals with sexual violence, and they are recognising the issue.

“But what we really want to see in our demands is that the University is committing to having this person long-term as right now it’s on a fixed contract.”

“We want to make sure that those affected by sexual violence which is predominately women and non-binary people have someone to go to,” she emphasised.

Larissa also spoke about the pay-gap within higher education, and stated: “I don’t think the University is doing enough. I don’t think think they even really want to speak to it in a tangible way. This is one of the issues where student-staff solidarity is absolutely crucial.”

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