‘Light up the Night’ March held at York for Sexual Violence Awareness Week

One attendee emphasised ‘how important it is to show solidarity in a physical way’

CW: mentions of sexual violence

A “Light up the Night” march was held at The University of York yesterday to mark the start of Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

The march, which was held to show solidarity with survivors of sexual violence, travelled from Greg’s Place to Heslington Hall ,with attendees bearing candles and torches to “Light up the Night”.

One attendee of the event told The York Tab “how important it is to show solidarity in a physical way”.

The event was commenced by Academic Registrar, Professor Wayne Campbell. He said: “This year saw the launch of the university’s Sexual Violence Steering Group chaired by my colleague Professor Tracy Lightfoot. The group has put together a Sexual Violence Action Plan and the growth of our team of Sexual Violence Liason officers continues.”

He added: “We’re continuing to learn, improve and strengthen our responses, having also launched online resources including Consent Matters which some of you may have taken as well as a module for staff.”

The Consent Matters online module “shows the importance of healthy, consensual, and safe relationships” says Campbell.

“To mark the start of Sexual Violence Awareness Week, we are lighting up the night. You should have with you your battery-operated candles. We’re going to use that as a display of solidarity with survivors of sexual violence.”

The march then commenced, with each attendee holding their battery-operated candle. As we walked, one participant of the march told The York Tab how “important it is to show solidarity in a physical way. It is vital for everyone to get involved: all genders, all sexualities, and all ages, as sexual violence can affect any one of us.”

The march was charged with emotion, offering a time of reflection for those attending. The candles shone against the dark backdrop of the night, offering a reminder of the solidarity for survivors of sexual violence.

Arriving at Heslington Hall, Professor Tracy Lightfoot, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students and chair of York’s Sexual Violence Steering Group, delivered a speech declaring the importance of recognising student and staff stories. She said: “Sexual violence is a heavy subject, it’s really emotive, and sadly it affects so many people in society and probably far more than we’ll ever know about.”

She continued: We recognise that many of our students and staff have their own stories. But we want to make sure that every member of our community knows that support is available. There is one thing I want to stress here, when I say every member of our community, we really mean it. This is not just about women, this is about everybody.”

She also explained how the university is “working closely with the different colleges, York St John University, the city council and North Yorkshire Police to ensure that the university is doing enough to combat sexual violence.”

Lightfoot then introduced Mags Godderidge, the CEO of Survive York, who said: “This is such a positive thing to be doing, we need people to be talking about sexual violence. But more than anything just showing compassion for survivors is the most important thing.”

Finishing at Heslington Hall allowed for the conversation between members of the march to continue. Leaders of campaign groups “The Last Taboo” and “The Red Flag Campaign” attended the event. They explained to The York Tab the “importance of showing solidarity to survivors”, and how raising “awareness through events and social media is a good way to promote support for survivors to access.”

When asked about the university’s strategy against sexual violence, one individual said “They are making steps in the right direction. The problem of sexual violence is a universal issue for all universities to solve, but the effort made by the University of York is a good place to start.”

Around Heslington Hall was information for victims of sexual and domestic violence, detailing charities and support networks that are available to them. Individuals were encouraged to take information leaflets and take part in the “Changing Conversation” artwork.

Attendees taking part in the “Changing the Conversation” artwork

Support services are linked here and The University of York Support and Report tool can be found here for students at the university affected by sexual violence.

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