Take To The Streets

The Tab talks to the mind behind Liverpool’s Reclaim the Night march

feminism feminist feminist society rape culture reclaim the night reclaim the night liverpool rtn

On Friday night, feminists and supporters from across the city will march for Reclaim the Night, a campaign targeted at ending street harassment and rape culture.

Starting from the Town Hall, hundreds will march through town, ending with a rally at JMU Student’s Union.

Although it started in the 70’s, the campaign has seen a resurgence in recent years, with the Liverpool march being one of many that take place regularly around the world.

The Tab spoke to Rachael O’Byrne, Labour Councillor for Allerton & Hunt’s Cross and one of the event’s organisers about rape culture, the march itself, and the importance of the cause to students everywhere. Trigger warning – contains discussion of sexual assault.

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The Tab: Hi Rachael, could you just let us know what Reclaim the Night’s all about?

Rachael O’Byrne: Reclaim the Night is a march to campaign for an end to male violence towards women and for gender equality. This year Liverpool Reclaim the Night is focusing on the issues of street harassment and rape culture.

What is rape culture?

Rape Culture is the concept where it is suggested victims of rape or sexual assaults are responsible for the actions of their attacker, which is never the case.

It is also the culture of telling rape ‘jokes’ which trivialises the serious issue and dehumanises victims and survivors.

In a 2005 Amnesty International survey, more than a quarter of people (30%) said that a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk, while 1 in 20 believed a woman was totally responsible for being raped if she walked home alone at night.

You can't have a protest without placards

You can’t have a protest without placards

We like to think of Liverpool, and the University itself as a very progressive sort of place – what are some of the issues that women still face?

Liverpool has Purple Flag status, which means it is one of the safest cities in Europe, the city is very proud of this. Reclaim the Night is about making Liverpool safer by challenging everyday sexism and harassment that women may face.The 2010 NUS commissioned Hidden Marks report showed that 68% of respondents had been a victim of one or more kinds of sexual harassment during their time as a student, with 1 in 7 a victim of a serious sexual assault or violence.

This report suggests there is an issue of gender based violence on our campuses, which reinforces why Reclaim the Night and feminist societies are so important, as they challenge this culture and continue to put women’s safety on the political agenda within institutions.

How do you feel about ‘lad culture’, which obviously the NUS have recently published a report on – how big of a problem is it?

‘Lad Culture’ manifests itself in many forms, one of the worrying trends we have seen over the last five years, is the amount of websites and Facebook pages being set up, telling rape ‘jokes’ and victim blaming.

Whilst it may seem like a joke and harmless fun, these actions normalise sexual harassment, suggesting that is acceptable to give other people unwanted attention, from cat calling, groping to serious sexual assault.It’s also dehumanising, sending the message that victims can be responsible for the actions of their attacker.

The NUS Hidden Marks report found that one in seven students has been the victim of a serious assault, but only 10% told the police.’Lad Culture’ cannot simply be referred to as banter when it actively contributes to victims feeling responsible for the actions of their attacker and that they won’t be believed or taken seriously.

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What’s the response been like so far?

The response so far has been fantastic, which is really exciting. This is the first Reclaim the Night March Liverpool has had in some time, so it’s great that there is such a buzz about the event.

Are men welcome on the march as well?

Yes. The first 3/4 of the march is for self- defining women only but there will be a point for others to join at the Bombed Out church at 7:30. The rally is open to all.

Why should the students reading this come and join the rally on the 10th?

Women have the right to walk the streets at night without the fear of rape, violence or harassment. The march is about reaffirming and raising awareness of this issue. We hope that women will join us in campaigning for an end to violence against women, challenging street harassment and ending rape culture.

Keep your eyes peeled for The Tab’s coverage of the march later tonight.

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