Hundreds of UBC students rally to Take Back the Night following series of sexual assaults on campus
UBC students Aleyah Williams ( L ) and Avni Garg ( R ) attend a Take Back the Night march on the UBC campus, Vancouver October 30 2013.
Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, The Province
Students at the University of British Columbia are turning away from fear, as dozens gathered Wednesday to protest rape culture and to rally against an unknown perpetrator behind on-campus sexual assaults currently being investigated.
“We modify our behaviours and coordinate our every move in order to keep ourselves safe from it (rape),” said Keira Smith-Tague, listing off actions such as covering drinks and getting keys out ahead of time.
“But it’s still not enough. All of these measures do nothing unless men stop raping.”
The Take Back the Night rally and march, largely organized via Facebook, drew dozens of demonstrators Wednesday evening to the Museum of Anthropology’s parking lot, the event’s starting point.
Smith-Tague, a worker with the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, was among many who spoke to the crowd at the event’s start. She and others highlighted the issue of victim blaming they say is being perpetuated.
Signs hoisted by demonstrators also appeared to signify a shift toward a more critical view on how the incidents have been handled by campus officials and police.
“Not just a women’s issue,” “I have the right to walk alone,” and “Safety is my right” were among some of the slogans at the rally.
Avni Garg was one of nearly 200 people in attendance Wednesday. A sign held by the 20-year-old Kinesiology student read: “My little black dress does not mean yes.”
“This directly relates to some of the RCMP reports on the sexual assaults. They specified that some of the victims were wearing short skirts and it’s sad because this only perpetuates rape culture by implying that these victims were attacked because of what they were wearing,” Garg told The Province.
“I don’t think it matters what you wear. No one deserves to be assaulted.”
The crowd then marched across the Point Grey campus in an effort to reclaim student space against fear that has been spread following the incidents.
The latest attack came Sunday morning near the centre of the campus, with five others spanning a period from April to earlier this month. RCMP investigators say they believe the same man is responsible for all six incidents.
Earlier in the day, UBC president Stephen Toope had said money was no issue when it came to the safety of students and the security measures currently being ramped up in wake of the attacks.
“We are putting the resources that are necessary to keep the campus as safe as it possibly (can be),” he said. “Frankly, we are not counting our pennies at this moment.”
A security company has been hired to bolster the university’s own resources, and volunteers have stepped in to help patrol the campus, Toope said. The Safewalk program — which sends volunteers to walk students back to their residence — has also had its hours extended by two hours each night, to 4 a.m.
RCMP presence has also been increased dramatically, “far more ... than ever in the history of the campus,” according to Toope.
A campus security working group will also look into other solutions such as surveillance cameras but Toope said privacy concerns have made him reluctant to commit to such a suggestion.
The suspect has been described as a six-foot Caucasian man in his mid-20s to early 30s.
In each incident, he has attacked victims from behind while they were walking alone. In one case this month, a woman reported he ripped her nylons but fled when she screamed.
— with files from Canadian Press
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