Oxford Reclaim the Night announced on Thursday the launch of their latest campaign against sexual violence, which will be centred on a march through Oxford on Friday 7 March to allow women to ‘Reclaim the Night’ for themselves.
The march will enable women to walk together through spaces in the city that they might normally avoid due to fear of violence, sexual harassment or rape. Oxford Reclaim the Night said in a statement, “The march aims to raise awareness of the scale of violence against women in our society, the need to prevent it, and the need to ensure women and girls can live free from the fear or violence.”
This year, the campaign is themed around freedom. Oxford Reclaim the Night said of the theme, “We believe that women should have the freedom to express themselves and be safe in public space. Freedom to walk alone is still denied to many women, in a society in which 85,000 women are raped every year and over 400,000 women experience sexual assault.”
Taking place on the evening before International Women’s Day, the march will begin at the East Oxford Community Centre and end at the Town Hall, to join the Oxford International Women’s Festival. While there will be a mixed rally at the East Oxford Community Centre to start the event, the march itself will be restricted to self-identifying women only.
Kirsty Braithwaite, from the campaign, told Cherwell of the march, “Events like Reclaim the Night are important because sexual violence is very common, and because we still have a long way to go before every survivor of sexual violence can speak up about what they’ve experienced, confident that they’ll be believed and not blamed. All proceeds from Reclaim the Night go to Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC), which we’re very happy to do.”
Braithwaite also defended restricting the march to self-itentifying women only. She told Cherwell, “This particular campaign is about gender-based violence, and we want to make sure that women feel safe on the march. It’s also about showing solidarity with other women.”
Lucy Delaney, OUSU Women’s Campaign Officer, commented, “I think Reclaim the Night is vital in recognising the ridiculous fact that women still feel unsafe to simply walk down the road at night.”
She added, “I think men are an important part in the bid to stop violence against women, but in supporting, rather than leading roles. I think the idea behind Reclaim the Night is that it seizes the autonomy and agency long denied to women, so obviously it is important that this is led and carried out by women.”
Abigail Burman, from the It Happens Here campaign against sexual violence, told Cherwell, “The marches are still important because the epidemic of sexual violence and violence against women is ongoing. And we as a society are still far too silent on these issues.”
However, one second year student said, “Although I think that preventing sexual violence is a very important goal, I’m not convinced that a march is the best way to act upon this.
“Instead, we should focus on directly helping women who have been affected by sexual harrassment or rape; simply raising awarenesss of the issues is not enough.”
Reclaim the Night marches began in the UK nearly forty years ago, on 12 November 1977, when torch-lit marches were held across England.